TIPTON, Iowa — Kallie Wallick has had a front row seat to greatness the past several seasons, watching the Tipton High School boys' cross country team.
She's seen the endless hours of training. She's seen the value of senior leadership. She's seen the camaraderie among the guys.
It has inspired Wallick, a senior on the Tipton girls squad.
"Growing up and running with many of them, seeing the success they've had, we're hungry for success ourselves," Wallick said. "It is a very big motivator."
When Tipton toes the starting line at Lakeside Municipal Golf Course in Fort Dodge this weekend for the coed state meet, it won't just be the boys team chasing a trophy.
Propelled by Wallick and a heralded freshman class, the Tipton girls go into the meet ranked third in Class 2A behind Mid-Prairie and Williamsburg.
"This group is young and has watched the boys and saw all the hard work they put in starting in the summer and how that translates into success," Tipton coach Eric Walsh said. "They took the approach, 'Why not us?'"
Tipton was a dominant girls program in the first half of the 2000s. It won five state cross country championships in a six-year span. But after a state appearance in 2007, the Tigers had a 12-year drought before finishing 13th last year.
Ranked 10th in the preseason, the Tigers are at their highest point following a state-qualifying win in Jesup last week.
"Some of us couldn't run two miles without stopping in August," Wallick said. "It blows my mind to see where we're at now.
"A lot of us had our individual struggles, but we banded together and showed we're not just a team but a family."
The girls likely won't have anyone finish in the top five Saturday, but the pack is tight with Wallick and freshmen Alivia Edens, Addie Nerem and Rebecca Hinderaker. They were separated by just 24 seconds at the state qualifier.
"(Last week) gave us a good confidence boost because we didn't think we were going to win," Edens said.
This is the eighth time Tipton has sent boys and girls teams to state in the same season.
The boys have garnered most of the headlines recently. Tipton is ranked second and vying for a third straight championship Saturday morning.
"They always brag about how good they are," Edens said, "so it felt good to be equal to them (at the state-qualifying meet)."
The boys admit there is friendly banter between the two teams.
"We have our boys and girls team wars that are pretty fun," Caleb Shumaker said. "You don't often see a lot of schools have boys and girls teams in the top three. It is either one or the other.
"We're all excited for what the state meet will hold. We'd love to bring two trophies back to Tipton."
Shumaker, in particular, is driven.
Despite the team success, the senior fell short of an individual championship last season with a third-place finish behind River Valley Conference rivals Dylan Darsidan of Camanche and Brady Griebel of Bellevue.
The result has been gnawing at him for 12 months.
"I have the most motivation I've ever had this year," Shumaker said.
During the past two months, Shumaker has essentially done a half-marathon for his weekend runs.
"He felt toward the end of the season last year he was getting run down and tired," Walsh said. "He put that extra mileage in during the summer so he had something to build a base upon."
Shumaker is ranked No. 1 in 2A. Other than Griebel, who is in 1A this fall, nobody has beaten him this season.
"I can count on my hand how many times this past year I didn't think about the state meet last year," he said. "It just hurt.
"My legs are more ready this year."
Walsh said Shumaker was determined to get redemption in the spring, but COVID-19 eliminated the track & field season.
"He's had a whole lot of time to stew over it and he's ready," Walsh said.
For Tipton to make it three straight, it will need to conquer top-ranked Danville-New London and hold off other threats such as Des Moines Christian, Davis County and Western Christian.
Walsh admits the Tigers don't possess the depth they did a year ago, but Cody Bohlmann, Ty Nichols, Troy Butler and A.J. Thumma have filled in admirably behind Shumaker.
"We have to lock in and be mentally ready," Bohlmann said. "This team loves to work and we've worked harder than we ever have. We have all the right pieces, we just have to put them all together at the state meet."
If they do, it could be a banner day for Tipton cross country.
"We just have to trust our training and race with confidence," Shumaker said. "As long as we go in knowing we're capable of great things, we're going to come out with a positive result when it is all said and done."