The Camanche Indians made history this cross country season, qualifying their first boys team for the Iowa High School State Cross Country Meet.
For Dodson Melchiori, it will be his second trip to Fort Dodge.
“It feels great. I’m happy to make it and basically just to run the course again,” Melchiori said. “We worked really hard to be where we’re at.”
Melchiori ran the course at Kennedy Park alone last year as the only individual qualifier from the Camanche boys team. He’s used that as motivation and as a leadership tool. It helps that he has other leaders among him.
“I used my last year experience to help me. I think this year, a lot of people who were not leaders last year have moved up a lot. Dylan Darsidan and Jimmy Sbertoli have moved up a lot.”
Darsidan, a sophomore, has been the Indians’ top finisher all year. He missed last year for a hip injury. Melchiori isn’t far behind him.
“It’s been fun trying to catch him,” Melchiori said. “We pack run in practices and what not, but with him competing for first I try to follow up right behind him and be a top finisher.”
Sbertoli is up there as well, finishing third at the district meet in Monticello last week. For him, it’s his senior year. That adds a little more incentive.
“I think senior year plays into it, but from the first meet all we’ve been talking about all year is making it to state,” Sbertoli said. “It’s what we wanted the whole year. I’m excited to see what we can do. The goal is always to beat our ranking and see what can happen.”
Sbertoli has taken on a leadership role as a senior on the team according to head coach Erin Montgomery. He just tries to lead by performing his best every single time he runs.
“I try to lead by example,” Sbertoli said. “Dodson and Dylan do a great job as our two top guys, everyone looks up to them. On the course they do a great job of motivating people.”
He also has a set goal in mind for his time when he set foot on the course in Fort Dodge on Saturday.
“I missed individually qualifying by 11 seconds, and I would like to make that time up,” Sbertoli said. “Then it’s just stick with Dodson.”
The Indians have been improving each and every meet as the season goes on, and they’re hoping that trend continues. According to Sbertoli, this is a new morale that he hasn’t seen from the Indians before.
“We basically had the same team last year with a few injuries. We just really didn’t think that it could happen,” Sbertoli said. “What they’ve done for this team is amazing. I think without them in our ear telling us it could happen, that wouldn’t have been our goal at the beginning of the season.”
Head Coach Erin Montgomery and coach Jerry Ford are the two behind that. They helped the athletes realize their potential this year and it’s shown in the Iowa state rankings.
They don’t matter now that they’ve made it to their final destination.
“I think at this point the rankings have no meaning to us,” Montgomery said. “We were ranked where we wanted to be at the time we wanted to be and now we’ve qualified. Now we want to prove that we deserve to be back up there, and place higher than our ranking says.”
A team they’ve been chasing all year is No. 2 Bellevue. Montgomery thinks that trying to chase the Comets will help improve the Indians’ time as well.
“They’re always a team we’re running after. Going after them will help us.”
For seniors Jimmy Sbertoli, Blake Leu and Juan Hernandez it will be their last race in the Camanche blue and red. The team is rounded out with sophomores Dylan Darsidan and Jaxon Bussa and juniors Dodson Melchiori and Zach Edens.
“For them and everyone, they should leave it all on the course,” Montgomery said. “I told them I don’t want them going home that night with any regrets. I want them to go home and with however we did, that’s all we could give.”
The meet begins at 11 a.m. on Saturday with the girls’ 4A race at Lakeside Municipal Golf Course. The boys’ 2A race—where the Camanche boys will be running—will begin at 1:30 p.m. with the awards ceremony at 2:20 p.m.