MUSCATINE — The Pleasant Valley girls cross country team has taken a somewhat conservative approach at the state-qualifying meet in recent seasons.

The Spartans nixed that idea Thursday.

"In past years, it was like, 'All we have to do is qualify and let's save a little for state,'" PV coach Jane Wheeler said. "The way this year has been going and Muscatine running so great, we decided to go for it.

"It was more for the girls to prove to themselves we're getting better at the right time."

Ignited again by junior McKenzie Yanek, Class 4A fifth-ranked PV staved off No. 6 Muscatine, 37-44, in the state-qualifying meet at the Muscatine Municipal Golf Course.

Bettendorf finished third with 68 points to earn the third state berth.

Yanek won the 4,000-meter race in 14 minutes, 5 seconds. Undefeated against Iowa competition the past two seasons, she'll seek a second straight individual state championship Nov. 1 in Fort Dodge.

"I'm pretty intrinsically motivated," Yanek said. "I have some high anxiety, but it makes me compose myself more because I have more people watching me this time.

"I have younger teammates and future teammates looking up to me, so I need to stay relaxed and composed for them." 

PV had six runners finish in the top 15. Addie Royer was third and freshman Kelsie Foltz took seventh.

The Spartans will make their 10th consecutive trip to the state meet.

"It is our goal to make the wooden deck (top three at state)," Royer said. "As long as we run like we're capable, that goal is attainable.

"Our whole pack is going to have to move up some spots and drop time, and McKenzie just needs to go out and do what she does."

Yanek finished 40 seconds in front of Muscatine's Brina Kraft. The duo also went 1-2 at the Mississippi Athletic Conference meet last week.

Wheeler expects Yanek to be challenged next week, in particular by Johnston senior Jordyn Kleve.

"I feel good about today," Yanek said. "The time is more where I was at last year. I'm hoping I can get even faster next week."

The Muskies, without a senior in their top five, narrowed the gap with five runners in the top 16. They finished 10 points behind the Spartans at the MAC meet.

"We came into this year focusing on pushing ourselves and getting better and not leveling off like last year," Kraft said. "So far, we've done that. 

"We can only get better from here. There are a lot of people that are going to start noticing Muscatine and finally taking us seriously."

That was one reason Wheeler decided to take a more aggressive approach. Plus, the meet was on Muscatine's home course.

"It was good to see our girls step up to the challenge," Wheeler said. "The fun part about this is racing."

Sydney Spranger, Haley Humphrey and Ally Gallagher finished ninth, 10th and 11th to fuel Bettendorf to the state meet.

North Scott freshman Maddie Case and Clinton senior Kim Kaster qualified as individuals, crossing in fourth and sixth place, respectively.

"I ran well," said Case, who finished in 15:15. "I felt strong and knew it was all mental toughness at the end.

"To place sixth at the MAC and fourth here, that's a big confidence boost for me. It makes me feel good going into state."

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