When Mountain View's cross country season ended at the Division II sectional meet last year, the Mountain Lions and coach Adam Vargas met to talk about how that season wasn't good enough.
They talked about diets and how to handle themselves on and off the course. And now Mountain View is one of the top teams heading into Saturday's DII sectional at Marana High School - the same location as last year's sectional.
Marana will also host sectional meets for DIII and DIV.
The top half of team finishers in each division will qualify for the state meet, as will the top 25 individuals in each division.
"I think it took a week or two to believe we could actually turn it around," Mountain View's Lance Pedersen said. "Everyone's on the same page now."
Pedersen and Sahuaro's Kyel Powell are the only two returning top-10 finishers from last year's DII sectional. The Rattler Invitational was held at the same course earlier this month, but both runners said it's not a huge advantage to have seen the course multiple times.
"It's just a slight advantage," Pedersen said. "Mostly everyone knows the course. I've seen it four, five times in my career. I know all the turns and at least I know I'm not going to do something stupid."
Here's a look at the two returning top-10 finishers from last year's sectional at Marana:
How he's better: He's running for a bigger cause. Instead of knowing he's in every big event as an individual, Pedersen now has the pressure of finishing well for a team that could contend at the state meet.
How he's looking at the sectional: As a chance to show that Mountain View is a much different team than last year.
How he finished at state: Pedersen finished 21st, and Mountain View didn't qualify for the state meet. "It wasn't one of my better races … you learn to forget," he said.
He said it: "At the beginning of the year, we sat everyone down and made a goal sheet. That really helped shape our team."
How he's better: Powell said that he's focused more on the team this year, and that gives him a little extra motivation when he might not have been able to find it in the past.
How he's looking at the sectional: To see how he measures up. Powell said he hasn't had a chance to run against some of the other top runners in the state all at once, so he's treating the sectional like a big invitational.
How he finished at state: Powell finished eighth at state - one place higher than where he finished at the sectional - and Sahuaro didn't qualify for the state meet.
He said it: "Last year, our team was pretty weak. This year, we set the goal of being one of the top 20 teams in state. But we want to go further. We have a lot of motivated guys."
Cross country sectionals schedule
Friday at Crossroads Park in Gilbert
• Girls: Division I, 1:40 p.m.
• Boys: Division I, 2:15 p.m.
Saturday at Marana High School
• Girls: Division II, 8:15 a.m.; Division III, 9:45 a.m.; Division IV, 11:15 a.m.
• Boys: Division II, 9 a.m.; Division III, 10:30 a.m.; Division IV, noon