LE MARS, Iowa – The Le Mars girls cross country team is running with confidence this season.

The hunger comes from the end of last season which saw the Bulldogs end up just shy of a state team berth, something that the squad has not accomplished in the four-class era (since 2003) in Iowa.

This season got off to a strong start with a team title in the season-opening Spirit Lake Invitational. The squad also won its most recent outing the Storm Lake Invitational.

The victories along with a runner-up at the Le Mars Bulldog Invite and a strong fourth at the Tim Thomas XC Meet in Holstein have pushed Coach Adam Moss’ club into the Class 3A state rankings at No. 13.

“I’m just really proud of these kids,” said Moss. “They put in a ton of work this summer.

“Finishing fourth last year at the district meet, we were a distant fourth (18 points), we had really good teams in our district, but that kind of lit a fire under them to see that they were that close. If they work hard that maybe they could put themselves in a chance for the state meet. We have a lot of work to do before that.”

The Bulldogs have a strong front trio in sophomore Chloe Calhoun, junior Madeline Hurt and sophomore Kara Albrecht, all returning state meet qualifiers while Hurt was a state meet medalist as a freshman.

Calhoun, who has four top -0 finishes this fall, was in the top 10 in all eight regular season meets a year ago, before finishing 52nd at state.

Hurt, 55th at state and Albrecht, 59th at state, have three and two top-10 finishes, respectively, this season out of four meets. The trio as a group never finished below 12th in a race last season for a team that finished third or higher in every meet except the difficult state qualifier in Spencer.

“They’re starting to believe in themselves, they’re believing in each other and they’re running well right now and that’s fun to see,” said Moss. “Cross country is such a mental sport you have to have such mental discipline and toughness to run the race.

“It’s just a confidence builder, I think it was for them, we have seen some really great competition this fall already. It has been a good racing environment these last four weeks.”

Le Mars' varsity seven includes sophomores Sarah Meis and Paige Washburn along with senior Katie McAllister and freshman Caroline Meis.

The Bulldogs have six of their seven runners back from last year’s state qualifying meet race where the squad totaled 85 points, finishing just 18 points behind Spencer for third and the final state meet berth.

“I think the challenge for all those varsity runners is to improve,” said Moss. “We are very proud of those three for making state last year. The higher they can climb can help the team too.

“I’m really proud of our four, five, six and seven runners, they have improved a ton since last year and they don’t always get the headlines, but without them we don’t go anywhere as a team. They’re kind of the unsung heroes at this point with all the miles that they put in and how hard they push each other in practice.”

There are just four meets remaining on the Le Mars schedule after Tuesday’s Sheldon Invitational was rained out.

The Bulldogs will compete in Hull at the Western Christian Invite before traveling to Cherokee and then to Spencer for the Lakes Conference championships.

Le Mars finished second last fall behind champion Spencer.

“That’s coming up quick,” said Moss. “There are several teams that have a chance at that meet. That’s going to be a good hard competitive meet, it will do nothing but prepare us for the future.”

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