FORT DODGE, Iowa – Joe Anderson and Gable Sieperda share a special friendship, a unique bond, despite not attending the same high school.
Opponents and rivals, somewhat, on the track in the spring, it’s the fall where the duo comes together to represent a strong George-Little Rock/Central Lyon boys cross country team.
The pair leads the Mustangs into Saturday’s Iowa State Cross Country Championships at Lakeside Municipal Golf Course in Fort Dodge seeking the ultimate prize, a state championship.
Sieperda, a four-time qualifier, is a senior at Central Lyon. Anderson, a three-time qualifier, is a junior at George-Little Rock.
“It’s deep,” said Anderson of their friendship. “It goes deeper than running, it goes deeper than friendship. Every day you’re out there working hard together.
“We still hang out and stuff during track season, we always do our warm up and cool downs, kind of like we're on the same team but we don’t wear the same jersey.”
Sieperda has enjoyed being pushed in practice, something that has elevated the Mustang from missing the state meet his first two years to just missing the podium last fall to this year’s squad which takes a No. 2 ranking into the Class 2A boys race, slated to begin at 1:30 p.m.
“It gets stronger every year, it’s something really special to have a goofball like him every day at practice, we push each other a lot,” said Sieperda. “I think we help each other grow in more aspects in life, more than just running.
"Joe has helped me grow spiritually, I think we just make each other better people and I think that’s pretty cool and we're pretty dang good at running, too.”
Together they are hoping to lead GLR/CL, making its fifth state meet appearance converging as one team in 1997, to its first podium finish after last year’s fourth-place ending.
Sieperda and Anderson came across the line 1-2 at the qualifying race at Landsmeer Golf Course in Orange City, something that has happened six times this fall. Both are returning state meet medalists as Anderson finished sixth one year ago.
“I don’t even know what it would be like without having that,” said Anderson of running with Gable. “You get second to Gable, you're basically getting first in the state.
“It’s nice having someone to push you if you’re having a bad practice. He is always there, he knocks you down during practice but then he picks you up after.”
The Mustangs, team champs in eight of their 10 meets this season, have three other runners back from last year’s squad in juniors Blake Johnson and Taeron Olson and senior Josh Haken. The newcomers experiencing state for the first time are sophomore Brayden Stoecker and junior Zach Springer.
“I really pride myself on just getting a group of guys that work hard. I think we have a lot of guys on the team that work hard,” said Sieperda.
Individually, Sieperda, a two-time state 3,200-meter champ in track, goes after the one title that has, to date, evaded his grasp, although injuries have played a role.
“It’s eluded me for four years and that doesn’t set well with me,” he said. “Ultimately, I’m going to go out there and put my best self on the line. If that’s 20th place, that’s 20th place. If that’s first place, then great.
“I’m chasing to be the best Gable Sieperda I can possibly be and if someone is better than that then kudos to them. It’s my year man, I’ve been working hard, I’ve been training hard. My goal is to be the fastest kid to finish the race Saturday, all classes, that’s my goal.”
Individual places aside, these friends chase a team trophy, but have let it be known that the only one that matters is the top one.
“We’re not hiding it from anyone, we want it to be known we want to be state champs,” said Sieperda. “That’s a lot of pressure to put on teenage guys, that’s a lot of pressure. I think we have handled it really well.
“It’s all or nothing now," he continued. "We step on that course, we either run our best race of our lives or the worst race of our lives and at the end of the day we have to live with it. We're going to go out there and compete hard.”
The challenge in the race for team championship honors come from top-ranked and defending state champs Mid-Prairie and third-ranked Garner-Hayfield-Ventura, the champs two seasons ago. George-Little Rock/Central Lyon is one of four Siouxland Conference teams in the 2A boys field and, one year ago, Northwest Iowa produced teams that finished second, third and fourth at state.
“We know what our goal is, I think were good enough to win it,” said Anderson. “We just need to stay healthy and just be smarter about our training (in the days leading up to state).”