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MUSCATINE, Iowa — It’s an advantage the Muscatine High School cross country teams haven’t been able to enjoy for over two years.

On Thursday afternoon, the Muskies hope they benefit from their first home meet since Oct. 2, 2012, when they host a Class 4A state-qualifying meet at Muscatine Municipal Golf Course.

Muscatine is looking to earn one of the three team berths to the State Co-Ed Cross Country Meet at Lakeside Municipal Golf Course in Fort Dodge on Nov. 1.

“We’re not overly confident, but I think we’re all feeling pretty good about it because we’ve raced there and no one else has,” Muscatine girls cross country runner Regan France said. “That feels pretty good that we’re the only ones that know the course.”

The Muskies girls, ranked No. 6 in the Iowa Association of Track Coaches poll released Wednesday, are looking to earn their second straight trip to the state meet Thursday.

They are eager to take advantage of a course that no one has ran. Previous Muscatine meets had been held at Discovery Park.

“We kind of know where the hills are, where we can push [and] where we need to back off,” Armstrong said of the course. “We know where it flattens off and where we can make our final push, so it may be enough of an edge that we can win [Thursday]. We’re hoping so.”

Led by Brina Kraft, the fourth-ranked runner in 4A, the Muskies have been buoyed by consistent performances all season long. Larkin Chapman and Danielle Roos have combined with Kraft to craft a talented top three that all finished in the top seven of the MAC meet last week.

France, freshman Moriah Morter and senior Lauren Keitel have provided an added boost from the fourth, fifth and sixth runner positions as the Muskies have seemingly gotten better all season, rising to their highest ranking of the season Wednesday.

“I feel we’ve got a lot of better because all of our workouts have improved,” Keitel said. “We run farther than we ever ran last year, so just practicing better and harder has gotten us to run better and harder.”

But in addition to making it back to state, the Muskies have another goal Thursday: To beat Pleasant Valley, the fifth-ranked team in 4A who won its 10th-straight MAC title last week.

“They’ve always been kind of the Cadillac of girls cross country around here,” Armstrong said of PV. “They’re the ones that set the standards high. If you beat them, you’ve got something to say.”

Muscatine finished just 10 points behind at the MAC meet and it could come down to France, Morter, Keitel and Cassidy Conway after PV edged the Muskies because their fourth and fifth runners finished a spot or two higher.

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“We know that we have those couple people we need to get in front of and if one through three runs as good as they did last week, it’s going to come down to the last three runners,” Keitel said.

Muscatine’s boys know what they need to do if they are to earn their first trip to the state meet since 2006: Beat either Bettendorf or Dubuque Senior, ranked No. 13 and No. 14 in 4A.

PV comes in as the fourth-ranked team in 4A and are the favorites.

How the Muskie boys can do that is simple, according to Muscatine coach Chris Foxen.

“We’re going to need five guys to run like the four guys did at the conference meet,” Foxen said. “If we don’t get a fifth guy to run like those four guys did – they finished all right together at the conference meet – we’ll be fourth.”

Sophomore Alex Bautista (10th place at the MAC meet), senior Caleb Hoffman (11th), freshman Tyler Olson (12th) and sophomore Kyle Hoffman (16th) all finished near one another at the MAC meet.

Finding a fifth runner to complement that consistent quartet is what Foxen said will be key Thursday.

Senior Brady Eversmeyer, who was the team’s No. 1 runner until an injury forced him to miss three and a half weeks of competition until he returned and finished 21st at the MAC meet, is the most likely candidate on a team that has really come together.

“I feel like we’re running together very well. We’ve been together as a team all season and that’s something we’ve been focusing on specifically, having group effort all the way up to the end,” Caleb Hoffman said. “To have everyone here and running well is exciting. Hopefully Brady will be running well and everybody will have a great race [Thursday].”

The course itself will offer runners a variety of terrains, according to Foxen. There are some hills and some flat, open spaces that the Muskie boys think they can take advantage of.

“We usually train hills throughout the season. We’re pretty good on hills or better than other teams,” Heckman said. “I can tell in the races. I usually pass people on the hills. It’s kind of hilly so I think we’ll be able to excel on that and work on some places with that.”

And they hope running at home for the first time in over two years will prove beneficial.

“The guys see it as an advantage," Foxen said. "When they’re tired in the last mile, and it’s probably going to come down to that last mile, from mile 2 to mile 3.1, we see it as advantage to have our people there and an increased amount of Muskie fans there."

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