Gilbert XC runners motivated by guest speaker leading up to state meet

Why not Gilbert?

The Tigers might not be favored to win Class 3A state championships when the girls’ and boys’ teams trek to Fort Dodge for the state cross country meet on Saturday, but the message they heard on Thursday was one of self-belief.

Daryl Nelson, who is currently the Director of Organizational Development for the New England Patriots, held a Zoom call with the Tiger runners to help get them motivated and mentally prepared for what they’ll face on the big stage at Lakeside Golf Course this weekend. Prior to taking his role with the Patriots, Nelson was an assistant athletic trainer for 6 1/2 years and the direct supervisor of Mason Finn, an athletic trainer at Gilbert.

Nelson spoke at length about how believing is a must-have mindset within the team.

“Why not you guys? Why not Gilbert?” Nelson said aloud as the Gilbert state qualifiers sat at attention around the large screen.

Nelson talked about the preparation for a big event, and he advised the Tigers to keep the status quo that worked so well throughout the regular season. Nelson even told the athletes to make sure they save a copy of the newspaper after they win.

Thank you, Mr. Nelson, for taking the time out of your busy day to spend a few minutes with our athletes.

The No. 7-ranked girls’ team — Clare Stahr, Abby McGuire, Abby Patel, Keira Andersen, Claire Grandgenett, Sarah Thatcher, and Nora Kalvik — won the team title at last week’s State Qualifying Meet in Humboldt and will be out to improve upon last season’s 13th-place state-meet finish. Stahr, McGuire, and Patel all ran at Fort Dodge a season ago.

Head coach Laura Kautman has guided the program to one state championship in 2013, and a year later the Tigers were runners-up.

Gilbert boys’ head coach Aaron Thomas has his program back in the state field after a two-year hiatus, and the Tigers enter Saturday ranked No. 6. William Wadsley has been the team leader throughout the fall and he’ll toe the line at state with an eye on a top-10 finish. Also competing for Gilbert will be Zain Mueller, Preston Stensland, Carson Squires, Emmett Barber, Harrison Kraehling, and Nolan Weber.

Thomas has led the Tigers to three team state titles and a pair of runner-up finishes during his career.

The 3A girls’ race is scheduled for 10:30 a.m., followed by the boys’ race at 11:15 a.m.

Pella enters the state meet ranked No. 1 in both 3A races.