The Jackson County Central cross country team will be in familiar territory when it runs in the Section 3A meet today (Thursday) in Luverne.
Junior Evan Paplow and a few other Huskies hope they enter uncharted territory at the meet.
The Huskies ran in a meet in Luverne earlier this season, making them familiar with the course.
“They’re familiar with the course,” JCC head coach Rafe York said. “I think that helps. There’s not a lot of surprises that way. There’s a hill about 120 meters from the finish line, so they know what to expect from that. They’ll be ready for that.”
While the course is familiar, York hopes a few individuals do something they haven’t yet.
Atop that list is Paplow, who came painfully close to advancing to state last year in cross country and track and field.
Paplow would have qualified for state in 2020 had the meet not been canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Last season, he was one spot away from qualifying for state. On the track, he was one spot away from making it to state in the 3,200-meter run last season.
That has provided motivation all season, York said.
“Evan, he was the first guy out for both cross country and track,” York said. “I think that’s been in his head all year. It’s definitely been pushing him. I think he’s going to break through. I think he will.”
For the JCC girls, junior Elese Paplow — Evan’s twin sister — has a shot at state, as does seventh-grader Cora Pauling, who has just three varsity races under her belt.
“I think Evan has a shot to get in,” York said. “Elese and Cora, if they run their best races ever, have an outside shot.”
While getting a couple runners to state is the main goal for the Huskies, York said he’d really like to see everyone on the team run well in the biggest meet of the season.
“It’s the same goals,” he said. “We want to finish as high as possible and get as many personal records as we can.”
Luverne is ranked fifth in the boys’ competition and Redwood Valley is eighth.
Will Ahrens of RV is ranked fifth and Owen Janiszeski of Luverne is ranked sixth.
On the girls’ side, Luverne is ranked fourth, Murray County Central/Fulda is ranked fifth and Canby/Minneota is ranked 10th.
Amanda Overgaauw of MCC/F is the top-ranked girl in Class A. Jenna DeBates of Luverne is ranked third, Ashley Overgaauw of MCC/F is ranked fourth and Kaylee Walklin of Windom is ranked seventh.
Other teams in the section are Adrian/Ellsworth, Mt. Lake Area/Comfrey, Southwest Minnesota Christian/Edgerton, BOLD/Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart, Lakeview, Montevideo, Tracy-Milroy-Balaton, Lac Qui Parle Valley/Dawson-Boyd, Pipestone, Wabasso, Central Minnesota Christian, Community Christian, MACCRAY/Renville County West, Russell-Tyler-Ruthton, Yellow Medicine East, Heron Lake-Okabena and Springfield/Cedar Mountain.
The top two teams in each race qualify for the state tournament, as do the top six individuals not on those teams.
The girls’ race starts at 4 p.m. and the boys run at 4:40.