The long, winding Pearl Island Trail in Brodhead is where state dreams are formed.

As Brodhead High junior Madelynn McIntyre jogs the trail, her mind wanders.

She glides past the rest areas, past the picnic tables and down along Decatur Lake.

If this is summer, odds are her mind is a blank slate.

During the season, McIntyre uses the weekend for these long runs to stretch out a bit, making sure to log the miles necessary to keep her in prime condition for her third straight run to a berth in the WIAA Division 2 state cross country meet.

Her thought process during these runs, which sometimes last an hour, changes to something more concrete: her next meet. As she runs, she imagines herself on the area courses: Her home course in Brodhead, around the school and baseball fields; the Duck Pond in Walworth, the one with neither a duck nor a pond; the golf course in Jefferson; Memorial Park in Platteville; the UW-Whitewater campus.

McIntyre’s junior season included five victories, including the Rock Valley Conference title. She never finished lower than fourth place, and now she’s shooting for a big goal Saturday’s state meet in Wisconsin Rapids: an appearance on the podium.

To do that, she’ll have to finish in the top 10. If that sounds like a daunting task, consider that McIntyre ran a 19:31 to place 13th in her sophomore season. McIntyre ran a 19:30 to place second at last weekend’s sectional race, eight seconds behind her PR of 19:22 set last season.

McIntyre was a latecomer to the cross country scene despite her championship pedigree. Her father, Mike, was a state champion for Albany in 1988, but he never pushed Maddy toward his sport of choice, instead supporting her as she chose volleyball.

Her first ever cross country race was in August of her freshman year. A few months later, she had qualified for the state meet.

She enters the final race of her junior season feeling healthy, with the increased confidence of having out-sprinted rival Brittani Meis of Platteville by five seconds. It was especially notable because Meis had out-kicked her twice before this season.

“That was a huge goal of mine, besides qualifying for state,” McIntyre said. “I knew it was going to be close, no matter what. But I didn’t want her to catch me at the end for a third time.”

With eyes on running in college sometime in the not-so-distant future, McIntyre is also content to focus on a very exciting present.

“I don’t get that nervous for the state meet,” McIntyre said. “That’s kind of weird to say, but it feels like a great accomplishment to even get there. The race is icing on the cake. It’s just one more time to leave it all out there.”