Thanks to a strong effort from Alex Jackson last year, Fort Dodge participated in the state cross country meet.
Now, with plenty of support behind Jackson, the Dodgers are hoping to find even more success this time around.
Jackson placed 30th overall at state and is one of several letterwinners back for FDSH head coach Tim Hanson. He'll be joined by Thomas Thompson, Ryan Wagner, Austin Read, Devon Schuster, Dalton Niemeyer and Caleb Asay to form the varsity Top-7.
Messenger photo by Britt Kudla
Dodger boys cross country returning letterwinners are, front row (left to right): Austin Reed and Bryce Rogers. Back: Alex Jackson, Devon Schuster, Ryan Wagner and Thomas Thompson. Not pictured: Caleb Asay.
Messenger photo by Britt Kudla
Dodger girls cross country returning letterwinners are (left to right): Megan Nebel, Rebecca Sunken, Anna Taylor and Katarina Olson.
"I feel this could be our best team we've had since the early 2000s," Hanson said. "Everyone from Alex to Caleb put a lot of running in over the summer.
"Our main goal is to be peaking at regionals, but to do that, we need to stay healthy."
The Dodgers have fought the injury bug in recent years, costing them chances at qualifying as a team for state. Jackson has advanced each of the past two seasons as an individual.
FORT DODGE CROSS COUNTRY
Seniors - Caleb Asay, Nick Campbell, Alex Jackson, Austin Read, Bryce Rogers, Devon Schuster, Thomas Thompson.
Juniors - Carter Bemrich, Ian Crowl, Jonah Egli, Brandon Lee, Peter Lyon, Dalton Niemeyer, Jacob Schreier, Ian Ebelsheiser.
Sophomores - Cole Davis, Brennan DeCoursey, Maxwell Hanish, Brady Read, Cal Solverson, Ryan Wagner.
Freshmen - Eli Asay, JR Brandt, Dillon Bethke, Jeremy Brower, Colton Delanoit, Austin Hintch, Christian Lundberg, Nicholas Martinson, Tyreike Mericle, Kody Richardson, Kade Solverson, Justin Vaughan.
Seniors - Taylor Chansler, Taylor Hintch, Amanda Koger, Becca Sunken.
Juniors - Alex Hays, Katarina Olson, Brandi Smith.
Sophomores - Noelle Barber, Megan Nebel, Anna Taylor.
Freshmen - Mara Crimmins, Josie Essing, Gabby Estlund, Dakota Ganzeveld, Michelle Chen.
Sept. 2 - at Webster City Invitational; 11 - at Marshalltown Invitational; 16 - at Storm Lake Invitational; 22 - at Humboldt Invitational; 25 - at Mason City Invitational; 29 - at Algona Invitational.
Oct. 9 - host Fort Dodge Invitational; 23 - at Class 4A district meet.
"We were fifth at regionals last year, so hopefully, if we can keep everyone healthy, we can have a shot at advancing (to team state)," Hanson said. "I told the guys if we can get their times under 17 minutes, we will have a shot at state.
"Each year these times are getting faster and faster, and the quality of runners these days is unreal compared to only a couple of years ago."
Anna Taylor, the sister of former Fort Dodge state champion and Iowa State University runner Dan Taylor, anchors the Dodger girls. She is followed by Becca Sunken, Gabby Estlund, Katarina Olson, Brandi Smith, Megan Nebel and Dakota Ganzeveld.
"I think we can have a different girl step up and lead us each meet," Hanson said. "We have a lot of room for improvement and I believe if the girls really push the envelope on those hard days and push through the pain and discomfort, they'll see results."
Estlund and Ganzeveld are freshmen this year, meaning they will get a trial-by-fire account of the varsity scene.
"It'll be interesting to see how they react to our workouts compared to what they were doing in middle school," Hanson said. "They need to feel that and know there's always a little more in the tank and push hard in the middle of the race. Saving everything for the finish isn't the best idea because if you have a 'kick' at the end, you have it because of the adrenaline and emotion."
Cedar Rapids Prairie is ranked No. 1 to start the year for the boys, while Ames holds down the top spot in the girls rankings.
The Dodgers open their season at the Webster City Invitational today. They host their own invite on Oct. 9 at Lakeside Golf Course, the site of the state meet.