Mustang Cross Country Preview

Three consecutive trips to the State Meet, culminating in a fourth place finish in 2015, has not satisfied the DCG boys cross country team. Senior Jared Bravard, who has competed on all three State qualifying teams said, "Last year was good, but wasn't as good as we wanted, and it kind of left a sour taste in our mouth. We want to be on the deck." The back deck of the clubhouse at Lakeside Golf Course in Fort Dodge is where the top three teams in the State are introduced. Last year, junior Alex Thompson was the lone member of the team to experience that after his 14th place individual finish.

The Mustangs return five runners from their State Meet team, two others with Varsity experience, and several others hoping to make an impact. But it's not just the top of the depth chart that matters for this team. The program continues to grow, and this year hit 51 guys buoyed by a junior class of 21. "We're bigger. And we believe we're going to be better," said senior Jacob Cline, another three-time State Meet performer.

Head Coach Matt Pries indicated the team will continue to focus on the importance of every guy pushing to get better every day. "They understand that while the varsity guys might get the headlines, every single one of them matters, and we want them all to improve as much as possible in all walks of life." That can be more challenging as the team grows, but with such growth came the addition of Assistant Coach Josh Saba. Pries said, "Coach Saba has been a great addition to our team. He brings positive enthusiasm and strong focus on building young men who will be good runners and good people. He meshes very well with our team philosophy, and I'm excited to have him on staff."

At the team's time trial on Aug. 18, the depth of the team shone brightly, and the Mustangs will count on that again this season, as they have in the past. "If you count all meets – and teams included in meets – our JV team finished 72-1 last year, losing only to 4A Johnston, and averaged 23 points a meet," Pries said. The Mustangs JV team scored only 17 points in a dominating win at the Little Hawkeye Conference, well ahead of second place Pella who scored 52. The Mustangs will look to continue performing at such a high level top to bottom.

On the Varsity side, the team finished no worse than second only twice, placing fourth at Newton in a loaded field and fourth at the State Meet. The team is looking to improve on that. Leading the way will be the aforementioned seniors Bravard and Cline. "Jared and Jacob have a ton of Varsity level experience and were consistently in our top five last year. We will look to them to help lead." Joining them will be three other State Meet performers in Thompson, sophomore Tyler Borneman, and junior Ean Followwill. Juniors Jacob Waymire and Steve Borneman also bring previous Varsity experience. In addition, senior Dakota Belling made a dent in the top seven, placing fifth at the time trial. Juniors Jackson Bridie, Nolan Grimes, Jared Klaessy and newcomer Brian Miner will look to contribute, along with sophomores Carter Eischeid, Max Hull and Caleb Rhoads. Freshmen Miles Wylie, the number one middle school runner last year is also in the mix. "Miles was 11th at the time trial and proved to himself he can hang right in there. Those sophomores and juniors had a great summer of mileage they hope to see pay off, and there are a host of other new and seasoned guys who put the time in this summer to have a strong season and continue to improve our depth," noted Pries.

The Mustangs open the season August 25 at the Gilbert Invitational on the ISU cross country course in Ames, and fans can get a good look at the team at their home meet on August 30 in Dallas Center near the middle and elementary schools. Pries summed things up by saying, "Last year on our way home from the conference meet, a couple freshmen asked when summer running started. They were that hungry to get back into things. That attitude is contagious, and this team is eager to get to work. Coaches can never be certain of just how things will go, but I do know we have a group of guys who will not relent in their pursuit of being as good as they can – and that's exciting. If they can maintain that laser-focus, stay committed to building each other up, and keep things fun at the same time, we're in for another great year."

You can follow the team on Twitter @DCGBoysXC and by liking the DCG Boys XC Facebook page.