Gaels ready for state

Lakeside Golf Course has been a site of some memorable moments in recent years for the St. Edmond boys cross country program.

Making their fifth consecutive state appearance and 11th in the past 14 seasons, the eighth-ranked Gaels will look to keep building on their rich tradition here Saturday afternoon.

Class 2A boys action starts at 1:30 p.m. inside Kennedy Park.

“After looking at the results from all the districts, we’re hoping to finish somewhere in the middle of the pack,” said SEHS head coach Mike Szalat, who guided green and white to a fifth-place state showing last fall. “We’re ranked eighth, which is probably about right where we deserve to be.

“(No. 1 and defending state champion) Monticello and (second-ranked) Gilbert are by far the top two teams. (No. 3 and last year’s state runner-up) North Polk has three really good runners and a decent fourth guy. (Fifth-ranked) Shenandoah also packs up well. From three on, it’s really kind of a guessing game. If we have a good day, though, who knows?

At last week’s state qualifier in Ames, the Gaels settled for third with 95 points. Junior Jacob Hamilton anchored St. Edmond with a 10th-place individual effort, clocking a time of 17:44. Senior Casey McEvoy (12th, 17:50), sophomore Harrison Mayer (19th, 18:36), junior Nate Yetmar (20th, 18:37) and sophomore Devin Camamo (34th, 19:07) rounded out St. Edmond’s scorecard.

“We pack up pretty good this year, but we don’t have a guy like (former North Central Conference gold medalists and top-six state placewinners) Seth (Reel) or Nate (Kolacia) that can really hurt you at state,” Szalat said. “Since we’re lacking a true frontrunner, this is a fun group to coach because of that.”

Hamilton, McEvoy and junior John Eide will each be competing in their third consecutive state meet for SEHS. Mayer and Yetmar both ran here in 2012. As the No. 6 counter, Mayer actually helped the Gaels narrowly edge out Center Point-Urbana in a tiebreaker for fifth.

“Casey made an interesting point after districts when he said he was relieved that we made it (to state) again,” said Szalat. “We should be proud of extending (the streak) and not feeling any extra pressure. We’re getting to the point where nobody wants to be the team that doesn’t make it. I’ve been blessed with some talented kids and a great assistant in Deb (Larsen).”

Saturday will mark the second time the Gaels have run at Lakeside this season. St. Edmond participated in the Fort Dodge Invitational back on Oct. 10.

“It’s nice getting to sleep in our own beds and not having to travel, but we might lose out on some other things that the wrestling and basketball teams get to experience in Des Moines,” Szalat said. “I still think the positives outweigh the negatives in that we already know the course.”

Gilbert’s top-ranked and reigning state runner-up Thomas Pollard – the son of Iowa State University Director of Athletics Jamie Pollard – Monticello’s No. 2 Michael Melchert and Gilbert’s third-ranked Wesley Greder each have their sights set on a 2A individual title. Melchert earned state bronze a year ago, while Greder checked in fourth.