An even pace wins the race.
That's Storm Lake cross country coach John Brostad's philosophy heading into the coed state meet at Lakeside Municipal Golf Course in Fort Dodge today.
Tornadoes Freddy Mendoza and Paul Yak will represent Storm Lake in the 3A boys race beginning at 12:30 p.m.
Storm Lake's last state entry - boys or girls - was Jerry Gallagher back in 1993, and Brostad said he told his runners to enjoy the experience and have fun running with the best the state of Iowa has to offer.
A total of 496 boys from 129 schools and 506 girls representing 140 schools comprise today's field with 23 teams qualifying a full complement of boys and girls units.
"We told them to go out with the upper one-fourth of runners but run within themselves. It looks like there are maybe five guys who have super times, so let them go and try and stay with the next group," Brostad said. "We've looked at starting assignments - which box we start in along with other runners and teams close to us that we are familar with - so we can maybe pace ourselves off of them for the first mile."
Mendoza, a senior, and Yak, a sophomore, will likely finish near one another today. Mendoza has taken fifth and Yak sixth in each of the last two meets, and their career bests (Mendoza clocked 17:03 at the Lakes meet this season while Yak ran 17:13) are just 10 seconds apart.
"Freddy doesn't like to run from the back so he likes to get into the lead pack. I think that works well for Paul to then pace off of Freddy," Brostad said. "Hopefully, that will work again."
Brostad is hoping his runners will run close to the following mile splits in the 3.1-mile race: 5:15, 5:20 and 5:25.
"We've worked on pace - 80 seconds per 400 meters, which is what we'd like them to average over the 3.1 miles," he said. "We did some "speed" work a week ago and then have tapered down. We have decreased their weekly mileage. We ran some 200s, a little faster than race pace, for leg speed last Saturday and again early in the week, but it's mostly been a week of light workouts. We told them to get a lot of sleep this week and eat a light breakfast (this morning).
"I'd like their stomachs growling a little when they get to the starting line so their bodies are not using any energy to digest food."
Going out strong but staying under control will be key for Mendoza and Yak.
"The adrenaline will be flowing so it's easy to blast that first half-mile and then struggle as you get to mile two and three," said Brostad. "We want to go with the top 30-40 guys but under control. I told them there is no pressure on them so enjoy the meet and see how many of the "big dogs" you can beat."
Meanwhile, in Class 1A, Galva-Holstein's girls team (fresh off a district title at their own course) run at 2 p.m.
In the boys 1A race, Laurens-Marathon's David Jones will represent the Chargers this afternoon at 2:30.
State Meet Notes (IHSAA)
* This is the 29th joint state cross country meet and over 6,000 fans are expected to attend. It's the 78th year the IHSAA has conducted a state cross country championship and the 42nd time the IGHSAU has crowned winners. This is considered the nation's largest prep gathering of its kind at one time on one course.
* Since coming to Fort Dodge 15 years ago Eastern Iowa has dominated the team titles. They have won 79 of the 92 team crowns, including all eight last fall. However, the West has not been without its glory, harvesting 32 of the last 56 individual gold medals.
* In this year's fall finale are the top-rated teams in each class and the eight schools that won titles a year ago (South Winneshiek Calmar 2A boys champions last year are now in 1A.). Returning also are five solid gold runners - Brooke Dinsdale of North Tama; Meaghan Nelson of Cedar Rapids Xavier; Katie Flood from Dowling Catholic, WDM; Isaac Wendland from Charles City; and Monticello's Nate Dotterweich - return to defend titles. Wendland and Dinsdale are seeking their third title and fourth straight year in the top 10.
* In class 3A boys, Cedar Rapids Xavier is top rated and defending champion and nothing in the districts would cause anyone to pick against the Saints to repeat. Aaron May (3rd last season) and Dan McDermott led the Saints who boast a strong group of pack runners, many of whom were on last year's title team and fifth place finishers in 2005. No. 3 Spencer and fourth-rated Spirit Lake Park are in the field and will need a lot of help to dethrone the Saints.
* Class 3A's Isaac Wendland, the two-defending champion, can become the first three-time champion since 1969 and the ninth to join a group that won three or four state crowns. Joining Wendland in the race for individual glory should be Mount Pleasant's Jared Walker who has fifth and fourth place finishes to his credit the last two seasons. Other favorites: Xavier's May, who always runs near the front, plus Aaron Siegrist of Garner-Hayfield/West Hancock; Algona's Ryan McMahon; Evan Selsor from Winterset, Webster City's Jesse Ogg, and Nevada's Tom Peterson.