By the time McKenzie Yanek's closest competitor completed the race Thursday, the Pleasant Valley sophomore was across the road at Crow Creek Park finishing a cup of water.

Yanek is setting a torrid pace her peers can't match.

Second a season ago at the Mississippi Athletic Conference meet, Yanek ran a personal-best 13 minutes, 55 seconds in the 4,000-meter race and won by a staggering 56 seconds to fuel the Class 4A fifth-ranked Spartans to their ninth consecutive league championship.

"She is a beast," teammate Maddie Reynolds said. "It is so awesome to run with that caliber of a runner. She is one of a kind."

Yanek hasn't lost a meet to Iowa competition all fall and is the top-ranked runner in Class 4A. She lowered her previous season-best by 8 seconds.

"I love to run; it is my favorite thing to do," Yanek said. "I think being high strung helps. I can't relax during races because I'm too nervous."

PV coach Jane Wheeler said Yanek is in a different league. Wheeler witnessed that for the first time during the team's 2-mile time trial in August.

Wheeler admitted she's curious to see how Yanek would match up with Linn-Mar's Stephanie Jenks, who won last year's state meet as a freshman but is not competing this season.

"McKenzie is a type of kid right now that can compete with anyone in the nation," Wheeler said.

Yanek had plenty of help in PV claiming an unprecedented ninth straight title.

Reynolds finished third, Addie Royer was fourth and freshman Addie Swanson concluded seventh as the Spartans compiled 26 points — 26 better than 3A top-ranked Davenport Assumption.

"After Clinton (two weeks ago), we were down, but we came back confident and really strong," Reynolds said. "It is exciting going into our championship season."

Wheeler said the subpar showing at Clinton came at an opportune time, a week after it beat top-ranked West Des Moines Dowling at the prestigious Roy Griak Invitational in Minneapolis.

"We needed a wakeup call," Wheeler said. "We really got after it in workouts to prove to them they could do it. Changing the mindset was a big thing."

Muscatine freshman Brina Kraft finished second in a season-best 14:51. The Muskies were third with 70 points.

"Very pleased," Kraft said. "We did a lot better on this course than we did last time (at the Spartan Challenge in September). We know if we can compete with these teams, we feel we can get in the top three next week and hopefully get to state."

It has been a difficult week at Assumption with the death of classmate Kelsi Youngerman, the second student to pass away in the past three months. Freshman Joy Ripslinger led the Knights with a fifth-place finish.

"Given the events this week, it gave us something extra to run for," Ripslinger said. "It was emotional, but it gave us some strength."


Prep sports editor, with emphasis on covering the Mississippi Athletic Conference and Iowa area high schools. I've been in sports journalism for 17 years, the last five at the Quad-City Times.