Excitement replaced disappointment.

Two points separated Pleasant Valley from a Mississippi Athletic Conference girls cross country title each of the past two seasons.

So when the Spartans clipped North Scott by three points for the league championship Thursday afternoon at Davenport's West Lake Park, there was plenty of relief and satisfaction.

"When you've been on the other side, you realize how much sweeter it is when you get on that positive side," PV coach Jane Wheeler said.

The Spartans did not have anybody in the top four, but Maddie Minard, Mallory Lafever and Abby Riley were fifth, sixth and eighth, respectively.

That, coupled with late surges from top-15 finishers Cecilie Schieffer and Lauren Buechel, helped PV end up with 48 points.

It was the program's 11th MAC title in the past 13 seasons.

"Our four, five and six really carried us today," Lafever said. "They stuck together, which is more important than being individual units. We know the race isn't won in the first mile, but the second and third mile is where you have to be gritty and push when it hurts the most."

Bettendorf's Trinity Borland held off North Scott's Presley Case for the title. Borland finished the 5,000-meter course in 20 minutes, 19 seconds, and Case crossed in 20:26.

The two separated themselves from the pack after the opening mile.

It was Borland's first league crown after finishing second to Davenport Assumption's Joy Ripslinger last fall.

"I definitely didn't know I had as much of a kick left as I did," Borland said. "That is the hardest I've ever pushed at the end of a race."

Borland called it one of the most challenging courses she's run. Besides the numerous blind turns, it featured hills and even portions of running on gravel.

"This is more than I could ever ask for," Borland said. "I'm so blessed to be first. It is an amazing feeling to win a MAC title. I had it in my mind, but I didn't want to be sad if I didn't meet my high expectations."

With victories in Iowa City and DeWitt, Borland has won three straight races going into next week's Class 4A state qualifier at Crow Creek Park.

"It definitely gives me a lot of confidence," Borland said.

Case was one of three Lancers in the top seven. Abbi Lafrenz placed fourth and Sommer Clydesdale was seventh.

"I wanted to see how far I could go with Trinity and how long I could stay with her," Case said. "This was the longest I've been able to stay with her. She's so fast, and I have so much respect for her."

North Scott had four runners cross before any other school but its fifth and sixth runners finished 25th and 26th.

"We wanted to (beat) PV so bad," Case said. "This will motivate us more for the next couple of meets to run as hard as we did."

PV, ranked eighth, has been made gradual improvement throughout the season. The Spartans are lumped in a state qualifier next week with state-ranked Dubuque Hempstead and Dubuque Senior.

"I think this gives us a really big boost," Minard said. "We're mentally prepared for next week. There is more of a motivation to keep getting faster."

While the Spartans don't have the stalwart like they did in recent years with McKenzie Yanek, they believe the sum of their parts makes them a contender in the coming weeks.

"We definitely think we can get back on that deck at state (top-three finish) after a disappointing finish last year," Lafever said. "Even though we're under the radar, we can keep pushing. Our rankings and times can't measure the heart on this team.

"We all want it really bad."

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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.