A stress fracture and tendinitis have limited Konnor Sommer at times during his high school running career.
But as Sommer hits the homestretch of his senior cross country season, the Pleasant Valley standout looks as strong and confident as he's ever been.
A week after winning the Mississippi Athletic Conference meet, Sommer added a Class 4A district championship to his resume Thursday afternoon at Crow Creek Park with a time of 16 minutes, 11 seconds for 5,000 meters.
"Every meet I've been getting better and better," Sommer said. "I'm ready to hit my peak at state, for sure."
Anthony Pena and Gavin Smith joined Sommer in the top four as fourth-ranked PV cruised to the team title with 28 points and earned the program's 15th consecutive trip to the state meet.
Pena was second in 16:15, and Smith crossed in fourth in 16:26. It was Smith's best time at Crow Creek by more than 30 seconds.
"Gavin has no doubts now about his ability to compete with the top runners," PV coach Erik Belby said. "Early in the season, he'd go out fast and pay the price for that later in the race, but he can hang in there longer now. His training has gotten to the point where he's strong enough to run with those guys and mentally he knows he can run with them."
Fifth-ranked Dubuque Hempstead finished second with 54 points, and Dubuque Senior was third with 66 points. Both of those teams will join PV at Lakeside Municipal Golf Course in Fort Dodge next weekend.
Sommer was hobbled during cross country season last year. He battled tendinitis late in the track season and didn't train much this summer.
In the last few weeks, Sommer has turned a corner with his training and confidence. He hopes it can catapult him to a top-five finish at the state meet.
"That's been a goal of mine ever since my freshman year," Sommer said. "I think I'm ready."
Smith has solidified himself as PV's third runner this fall.
"My mentality has changed," Smith said. "I've gotten to the mindset where I know I have to be the third guy for our team to do well.
"I've always run races where I go out a little fast. I think lately with my training and running with Konnor and Anthony, I'm more consistent each mile instead of putting it all out there in the first mile."
For PV to capture a state championship next week, something it hasn't done since 2008, it'll need the fourth and fifth runners to close the gap.
Parker Huhn, who fell in the early portion of Thursday's race before getting up and finishing eighth, was 32 seconds behind Smith.
"They're all going to have to move up a little bit," Smith said. "I think today showed we have a really good chance at finishing in the top three. If we can get that pack a little tighter, we can maybe win a state title."
Davenport West's Andrew Wright (seventh), North's Zach Schocker (ninth) and Central's Drew Thompson (12th) advanced to the state meet.
It'll be Wright's third state cross country trip.
"My race was trying to stay up there in the pack and qualify," Wright said. "I'm looking more toward the state meet. I really feel like I'm going to pull something out there."
Schocker, a senior, will make his first state appearance.
"I've been battling for this spot for four years," he said. "I came out here and knew it was either going to be my last race or next-to-last race. It was a do-or-die moment.
"Fifteen to 20 minutes of pain is worth a lifetime of glory."