WILLMAR -- Mahad Hassan is right where he wants to be entering October -- No. 1.
He's not there in the Class AA Coach's Poll -- yet -- but he could be soon after winning his second straight meet on Saturday.
The Willmar senior pulled away at the last half-mile to win the Optimist Invitational at Eagle Creek Golf Club on Willmar's north side in a time of 16:09.
He's the highest-returning male runner from last year's AA meet and now he's again feeling he's the one to beat.
"I ran with the lead pack until the last 800 meters, then I kicked and was out front alone," said the state's No. 1-ranked runner to start the season. "I felt strong."
Willmar has two meets remaining, plus the Central Lakes Championships, before postseason. Hassan said his sights are on the state meet in November and two national high school runs.
"I'm finally getting back to where I was before I got sick," he said. "It takes a lot out of you."
At the season's brink, Hassan spent two days in the hospital from food poisoning. His lack of early activity dropped him from No. 1 to No. 11.
The boys team meet was won by Moorhead with 51 points, followed by Alexandria with 80 and Willmar with 97 in third.
Besufekad Shannon-Tamro of Hopkins was second individually, two seconds back of Hassan. The Spuds' Jakob Lindaas and Lukas Gemer were next, a week after finishing 1-2 at the Milaca Mega Meet.
Willmar junior Sadam Abdi, who finished seventh in the Maine big-school state meet in 2007, was eighth. Mowlid Mohamed, a freshman, was 20th.
The Willmar girls took sixth place. Alexandria's Jamie Piepenburg, a freshman, ran uncontested over the tumbling back nine to finish in 15:03, a half-minute up on Nikki Huelsman of Bismarck (N.D.) Century, the team champ by four points over Moorhead.
The Cardinals' Jayne Cole, a junior, ran with the lead pack (well behind Piepenburg) until late in the race when she dropped back to finish 10th in 16:13.
"Our girls ran well. The hills here are hard," said Cole, who logged 330 miles starting Memorial Day to prepare for the season.
The team's No. 2 runner Saturday was seventh-grader Paige Kester in 35th in 17:21. Also for Willmar, eighth-grader Cassandra Johnson was 39th and juniors Erin Sheehan, Emily Ellingson and Danielle Erickson 43rd, 45th and 50th, respectively.
Rounding out the Willmar boys score were junior Matt Weitzel 33rd, freshman Alex Johannes 35th and junior Danny Voss 42nd.
Willmar is at the Alexandria invitational on Saturday.
(1) Moorhead 51 (2) Alexandria 80 (3) Willmar 97 (4) Hopkins 98 (5) Bismarck Century (6) Fargo North (7) Dassel-Cokato 189 (8) Hutchinson 203 (9) Canby 254 (10) Trinity, Eagan
TOP 10 -- (1) Mahad Hassan, Wil, 16:09 (2) Besufekad Shannon-Tamrot, Hop, 16:11 (3) Jakob Lindass, Mhd, 16:12 (4) Lukas Gemar, Mhd, 16:24 (5) Drew Paradis, Alx, 16:29 (6) Mahi Kahn, FN, 16:37 (7) Brett Kelly, BC, 16:39 (8) Sadam Abdi, Wil, 17:0 (9) Tim Lillehaugen, Mhd, 17:08 (10) Austin McCoy, Alx, 17:13
WILLMAR -- (1) Hassan (8) Abdi (20) Mowlid Mohamed, 17:51 (33) Matt Weitzel 18:14 (35) Alex Johannes 18:21 (42) Danny Voss 18:42
(1) Bismarck Century 51 (2) Moorhead 55 (3) Hopkins 71 (4) Canby 103 (5) Alexandria 158 (6) Willmar 172 (7) Hutchinson 180 (8) Fargo North 201 (9) Trinity, Eagan 264 (10) Dassel-Cokato 291
TOP 10 -- (1) Jamie Piepenbureg, Alx, 15:03 (2) Nikki Huelsman, BC, 15:33 (3) Tess Boucher, Alx, 15:41 (4) Andrea Markwart, BC, 15:49 (5) Kathy Amundson, Can, 15:59 (6) Tayler Polomny, Mhd, 16:01 (7) Mel Uhrich, BC, 16:02 (8) Hannah Jocelyn, Hop, 16:07 (9) Anna , Mhd, 16:11 (10) Jayne Cole, Wil, 16:13
WILLMAR -- (10) Cole (35) Paige Kester 17:21 (39) Cassandra Johnson 17:29 (43) Erin Sheehan 17:43 (45) Emily Ellingson 17:45 (50) Danielle Erickson 17:54