Along with assistant coach Jenny Wolfe, front left, members of Polk County's state cross county qualifiers pause Friday while training on the state meet course in Kernersville.

For only the second time in the past eight seasons, Alan Peoples loaded a full cross country team on an activity bus Friday afternoon and left Columbus bound for the North Carolina state 2A cross country meet.

Which is undoubtedly the reason why a grin rarely left Peoples’ face as he waited on his runners to arrive.

“It feels great,” said the Polk County veteran cross country coach. “What also feels great is that when I walked in day one, I told them we could win both conference titles, and we did. And I said both teams could go to the state meet, and we got the boys in.”

Eight Polk County boys team runners, plus girls individual qualifiers India Godlock and Emily Kocher, left town shortly after noon on Friday headed for Kernersville, where the state meet will be held Saturday at the Ivey M. Redmon Sports Complex. The 2A boys race is set to begin at 10:30 a.m., with the girls soon to follow at 11:30 a.m.

Finishing fourth at the 2A West Region meet, though just nine points behind runner-up Shelby, Polk County enters Saturday’s meet seeded 10th in the boys race. Peoples is optimistic that the team can place above its seed.

“The top eight is a realistic goal,” Peoples said. “I don’t think our team has peaked yet. We’ve gotten better each meet.”

The loss of senior Caleb Brown to a stress fracture might well have cost the Wolverines a shot at the region title, given Brown’s times throughout the season. Another senior, Eli Hall, has also been battling an injury and will determine his availability on Friday after the team arrives in Kernersville and holds a brief training session on the state meet course.

Junior Sean Doyle has led the team throughout the season and placed fourth at the region meet. Doyle enters as the 14th seed among male individuals and will be making his third straight trip to the state meet, qualifying as an individual last season and running with the last Wolverine team to advance in 2012.

“The top ten make all-state, and he’s got a chance to make it on stage,” Peoples said. “But he’s got to bust it.”

Juniors Mitchell Brown and Jacob Wolfe each finished in the top 20 at the region meet and will be counted on to lead the Wolverines, who will also have senior Mark Federman and three freshmen – Al Russell, Connor Holtz and Luke Collins – available.

“We’re seeded 10th out of 16 teams, but the year started with more than 100 teams and we’re in the top 10, so we feel pretty good about that,” Peoples said.

The Polk County girls team placed fifth at the region meet, one spot away from also making it to Kernersville, but did have Godlock finish 7th and Kocher 14th to earn state trips. Godlock, a sophomore, will make her second straight state meet appearance. For Kocher, her first year on the team will end in the sport’s biggest event.

“Emily Kocher has been the positive of the year for us,” Peoples said. “She has never run before. This is his first year on the cross country team and she is loving it.

“We’re looking for (personal record times) for them. They can’t score for a team, so we’re looking for PRs.”

North Carolina School of Science and Math won the 2A men’s championship last year, with North Lincoln capturing state crowns in 2011 and 2012. NCSSM earned top honors in its regional, along with Franklin, Central Academy of Union County and Elizabeth City Northeastern.

Carrboro had won the four women’s 2A team championships in succession before East Lincoln snapped the Jaguars’ string last year. Both East Lincoln and Carrboro won their respective regionals last weekend along with West Stanly and Newport Croatan. Senior Maysa Araba of Carrboro is the defending individual champion and has qualified to defend her crown.

Peoples said he expects Carrboro to dominate the girls team event this year.