Oct. 26—PCM freshman Lila Milani is simply looking forward to the experience at the state cross country meet this week.
Sophomore Coby DeRaad is excited to be running at what he calls the best place in high school sports.
Both Mustangs will be on the biggest stage for the first time in their cross country careers when they compete in the Class 2A state meets in Fort Dodge on Friday.
"I'm looking forward to running on a stage I have never run on before," DeRaad said. "Just being at the best place in high school sports is crazy, and I can't wait to run there."
Both Milani and DeRaad were on the edge of not qualifying during their state qualifying meet at Pella last week.
But both runners are in a much better place now than they were at any point this season.
DeRaad's been the No. 1 runner for the PCM boys all year, but his first 5K of the fall was clocked in 19 minutes, 26.2 seconds. His most recent 5K was clocked in a career-best 17:22.99 at Pella Sports Park.
DeRaad has posted times of better than 18 minutes at three true 3.1-mile courses this fall. He registered times of 17:50.85 and 17:51.54 in the two most recent meets before the state qualifier.
"I really just want to end the season knowing I gave this year my all," DeRaad said. "I want people to know that I'm running because God gave me this ability and that I used it to my full potential."
Milani is out for cross country for the first time in her career. She did not run in junior high and started the season as the team's fourth runner.
Her first 5K time of the season was clocked in 25:07. She was the team's sixth finisher in the second meet of the year and posted a time of 24:18.
She moved into the second spot in the varsity lineup midway through the season and was the top Mustang just once this fall. That came at the state qualifier when she turned in a career-best time of 20:45.49.
It was the first time Milani went faster than 21 minutes this season. She's gone under 22 minutes four times.
"It's very exciting to be able to experience this as a freshman," Milani said. "I really wasn't expecting anything this year, but I'm grateful and excited that I get to experience this opportunity."
Milani will start from Box 13. She will be joined by top-ranked Hillary Trainor of Sumner-Fredericksburg, No. 11 Scarlett Byrnes of Osage and No. 17 Izzy Houts of Dike New-Hartford.
The other two title contenders are two-time state champion and second-ranked Danielle Hostetler of Mid-Prairie and third-ranked McKenna Montgomery of Albia.
"I have a few goals for myself," Milani said. "I would like to improve my time. I want to ignore the negative thoughts and remind myself that I run to glorify God. My last goal is to try my best."
DeRaad will start his 5K from Box 15. A familiar foe in Evan Voga of Roland-Story will join him along with No. 10 Treyton Schaapherder of Clarinda and No. 17 Nathan Pint of Jesup.
The title contenders in the 2A boys' race are top-ranked Caleb Ten Pas of Des Moines Christian, No. 2 Evan Osler of Okoboji-Milford and No. 3 Emmett Swartentruber of Mid-Prairie.
"I'm completely astonished that I have been able to accomplish one of the great things that you can do in high school," DeRaad said. "Just knowing I made it gives me joy.
"I have been told it's almost like a 'battleground.' Everyone there is giving it their all, passing out, throwing up and crawling across the finish and I really look forward to going to battle for one last time."
The Class 2A girls' 5K race will begin at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday at Lakeside Municipal Golf Course in Fort Dodge. The boys' race is scheduled to start at 11:15 a.m.