PORTLAND - The Corning Hawks boys cross country team will compete with the best runners in the country on Saturday when it takes part in the Nike National meet at Glendoveer Golf Course in Portland, Oregon.

The Corning boys became the first ever team from Section IV to qualify for the National Meet last weekend when they notched a second place finish at the Nike Regional meet with a team score of 98, led by Quinn Nicholson’s fifth place finish.

Nicholson ran one of his best races after a tough season that began with an injury, but the senior is looking forward to concluding his final season of cross country on a high note.

“This is sort of my last race in cross country as a senior,” said Nicholson. “Coming back, I’ve only had a few races to improve my speed since being injured, so I’m trying to make this my best one.”

Nicholson is shooting for All-American status individually, which is given to the top 21 runners in the field.

“Personally, I want to try and get top 21, that’s a goal for me,” Nicholson said. “That’s what I’m shooting for, but it may be harder than I think.”

After Quinn, the other senior on the team, Dan Gahagan looks to lead the pack of three total Hawks that notched top-20 finishes in the regional meet with Gahagan taking 17th, Nathan Lawson in 13th and Torrey Jacobson-Evans in 15th.

“I just want to race together well as a team,” said Gahagan. “I definitely want to be able to lead our other boys so we can have a nice pack and I can lead us to a good position. It is hard to tell how we’re going to do because of all the competition.”

Team wise, according to Tullyrunners.com, Corning has been ranked all the way from 11-21 of the 22 teams that are competing. Fayetteville-Manlius, the team who edged the Hawks at the regional meet, is ranked as high as sixth.

“I think if we ran well, we can be top 10,” Corning head coach Ray Lawson said. “I think we can finish top 10 if we handle the stress well and run the way we are capable of.”

Fortunately, even though nobody on the Hawks current squad has run the course, they have been in communication with Corning alumni Kevin Moshier and Jessica Lawson who both made it to the national meet a season ago for some tips on the track and how to prepare for the challenge.

“I’ve been talking to Kevin and Jess a little bit about the course, but more importantly what you do in the activities before you actually race,” said Nicholson.

Coach Lawson likes the team's chances on the course after seeing it last year.

“We are well prepared for that course,” said Lawson. “It has some small hills, but we’ve run far more difficult courses than it. What the challenge is our top guys are going to be running with a mass of runners.”

Over 270 runners will be competing on Saturday including individuals and teams.

Regardless of where the Hawks finish, Lawson will be satisfied with the season as a whole.

“We went into the season thinking we could be a really good team,” said Lawson. “When Quinn got hurt, that set us back, but we believed that we could be a good team and across the course of the season we got better and better, culminating in the state and regional meets.”

If you want to check out the action, log on to http://cdn.runnerspace.com/nxnlive.html for a live stream of the races. The boys are slated to begin at 10:05 a.m. PST or 1:05 p.m. EST.