McKenzie Yanek has been a stalwart for Pleasant Valley's girls cross country team all season.
Overlooked by Yanek's dominance, though, has been the gradual improvement of the Spartans' second, third and fourth runners.
Because of that, Class 4A third-ranked PV believes it can defend its state championship next week at Lakeside Golf Course in Fort Dodge, Iowa.
The Spartans went 1-2-3-4 at Thursday's state-qualifying meet at Crow Creek Park to win the meet with 20 points and qualify for the state meet for the ninth consecutive season.
"We want to repeat, and today boosts our confidence knowing we can run like a pack like this in cold weather," said PV junior Addie Royer, who finished third in the 4,000-meter race in 15 minutes, 13 seconds.
"Our pack has gotten a lot better. We were separated at the beginning of the year, but we've come together more, we work out together and we have more experience."
Yanek continued to obliterate the field with a victory in 14:04, 53 seconds clear of teammate Maddie Reynolds. Royer was third and freshman Addie Swanson was fourth in 15:16.
After setting a course record at last week's conference meet (13:55), Yanek and the Spartans took a more conservative approach.
"We just wanted to try and get as many people in our top 10 and qualify for state," Yanek said. "We wanted to stay as relaxed as long as we could but still accomplish our goal."
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Yanek has won every meet against Iowa competition this season by at least 29 seconds. The only item left is winning an individual state title.
"I'm just going to run how I've been running throughout the season and we'll see where that takes me at state," Yanek said.
Despite graduating three Division I runners in Anna Peer, Mahnee Watts and Megan Nickles, Bettendorf finished second with 49 points and qualified for state for the fifth straight year.
Abby Sears led the Bulldogs and prevented the Spartans from a perfect score with a fifth-place finish in 15:22. Sydney Spranger and Isabella Blackman finished eighth and ninth.
"We knew it was going to be hard for us this year," Sears said. "The upperclassmen really had to step it up and lead the team.
"It wasn't really any one of us individuals but us working together as a team. We've worked hard in practice and really wanted this."
The biggest surprise came from Davenport Central freshman Bella Zepeda.
After finishing 23rd at last week's conference meet, Zepeda trimmed 41 seconds off her time and finished seventh in 15:42 to qualify for state.
"It was a big surprise," Zepeda said. "Just the energy and adrenaline of it being districts provided me more energy to finish the race.
"I'm really proud of myself. I'm tired, but I'm ready for next week."
Clinton's Kim Kaster placed sixth to qualify for state.