DAVENPORT, Iowa − Muscatine girls cross country coach Tim Armstrong called it her best race of the season.
During a day of disappointing team finishes at Thursday’s MAC Cross Country Championships at West Lake Park that included both the Muskie girls and boys finishing fifth, Moriah Morter provided a bright spot.
The senior positioned herself toward the front of the pack out of the gate, finding herself in third place for much of the race including the finish, where she clocked in at 20 minutes, 38.9 seconds.
“There are times that it gets hard, there are always people that can come up to challenge you,” Morter said. “But you just have to remind yourself that you’re there for a reason and you didn’t work an entire season just to get beat.”
Morter maneuvered around plenty of tree stumps, walnuts and mud in a performance that places her among the best in the conference.
“Third in a tough conference like this where you have four teams that have been ranked this year and a couple in the top 10, so I would guess that was (Morter’s) best race of the year, according to the competition,” Armstrong said.
Another bright spot, from the boys team, was Tyler Olson.
With a fifth-place finish in 17:21.3, the senior accomplished something no other Muskie runner has done during Chris Foxen's nine years as head coach.
"I'm really happy with the overall running of Tyler Olson," Foxen said. "He's a four-time all-conference runner. He was all-conference his freshman year, and he's first-team all conference his senior year.
"That's an exceptional accomplishment for an individual who's extremely focused and works hard every day to get better."
Olson's strategy from the start was to hang around as close as he could with Pleasant Valley's top runners, who tried to control the lead pack out of the gate.
With about a mile remaining in the race and a steep downhill in front of him, Olson made his move.
"I went down the hill and passed two of the (Pleasant Valley) guys and I just tried to stick ahead of them," Olson said. "When we came up the last hill I tried to just power up the hill and around the corner and tried to make sure when they came up I was too far ahead for them to even attempt to catch me."
With districts approaching next Thursday, the Muskie girls and boys both have their work cut out for them.
After Olson, Tevin Tovar finished 17th, Eli Roeth 27th, Matt Booth 34th and Owen Hazelwood 35th to round out the top five and give the Muskies boys 118 points.
Pleasant Valley won the boys race with 21 points, and the Spartans' Konnor Sommer was the individual champion (16:41.6).
In the girls race, Muscatine's Rylee Blake finished 16th, Emma Maynard 22nd, Emmie Smith 24th and Molly Tigrett 36th to round out the top five, giving the Muskies 101 points.
Pleasant Valley won the girls race as well with 48 points, and Bettendorf's Trinity Borland was the individual champion (20:19.4).