Konnor Sommer placed third at the Mississippi Athletic Conference cross country meet as a sophomore. He was runner-up last year as a junior.
There was only one more rung for Sommer to climb.
The Pleasant Valley reached the top in emphatic fashion Thursday afternoon at West Lake Park.
Sommer breezed to a 16-second victory in the 5,000-meter race over teammate Anthony Pena.
"I really wanted to get it this year," said Sommer, who finished in 16 minutes, 41 seconds. "I had a really great track season and ran great times, but I wasn't quite running where I wanted to be at the start of the cross country season.
"I've been working my way up, and it feels good to see it pay off."
The Class 4A third-ranked Spartans claimed their seventh straight MAC title in runaway fashion.
PV had six of the top nine finishers and closed with 21 points, 80 better than second-place North Scott.
Gavin Smith joined Sommer and Pena in the top three. Parker Huhn, Ian Kaffenberger and Andrew Witters concluded 7-8-9.
It was the first time the MAC meet had been contested at West Lake since 2007. Nearly the entire field had never stepped foot on the course.
"I just wanted the guys to focus on competing, run for places and win a conference title," PV coach Erik Belby said. "They took care of business."
Sommer and his teammates came out to get a glimpse of the course several days ago.
"It definitely wasn't a fast course, and the times were pretty bad," he said.
Pena was on an official visit to Illinois State when the Spartans visited.
"I never even knew there was a park here," Pena admitted. "I didn't know know much about the course until five minutes before the race started.
"Individually, I was pretty disappointed with how I performed today. I just wasn't feeling it today."
The Spartans started the season ranked No. 1. They fell a spot after losing to Dowling Catholic in Marshalltown and dropped to as far as fourth before their current spot of three.
Belby said the biggest challenge for his team in the coming weeks is getting his four, five and six runners closer to the front pack. There was an 18-second separation between Smith and Huhn on Thursday.
"If we can do that, we have a legitimate chance of being state champions again," Belby said. "If not, we'll still be a good team and probably fighting for a third-place trophy. We've got to get those guys together.
"They've shown they can do it in practice, but it's tougher in a race."
PV will host a state-qualifying meet next Thursday that includes fifth-ranked Dubuque Hempstead and 12th-ranked Dubuque Senior.
"We're ready for the state meet, I think," Sommer said.
Davenport West's Andrew Wright placed fourth, and Muscatine's Tyler Olson was fifth. It was the first time in Muscatine coach Chris Foxen's nine-year tenure he's had an athlete be an all-MAC performer all four years.
North Scott, with four in the top 20, edged West for second place by eight points. Bettendorf was fourth and Muscatine fifth.