MUSCATINE, Iowa — Whatever slight bit of disappointment lingered, it was hard to find.
There was plenty for the Muscatine High School girls cross country team to be happy about, most notably that they had clinched a second straight trip to the Iowa Co-Ed State Cross Country meet next Saturday, Nov. 1, at Lakeside Municipal Golf Course in Fort Dodge.
Unlike last season, though, when the Muskie girls were pleased just to advance to the state meet for the first time since 2005, they wanted more. Most notably, they wanted to finally knock off Pleasant Valley.
While the Spartans and Muskies easily outdistanced themselves from everyone else in the field, including the third qualifier, Bettendorf, PV edged the Muskies by just seven points at Muscatine Municipal Golf Course, 37 to 44, a fact that will make this group even more determined.
“It’s just another reason to work harder and get better,” Muscatine freshman Moriah Morter said.
Joining the Muskie girls in Fort Dodge next weekend will be Muscatine sophomore boys runner Alex Bautista, who completed the course at Muni in 16 minutes, 39 seconds to finish seventh and claim one of the 10 individual qualifier berths to the state meet.
PV claimed the boys' team title, too, with 26 points. Dubuque Senior and Bettendorf claimed the final two team berths with the Muscatine boys finishing fourth with 83 points, 18 behind the Bulldogs.
“I thought we competed really well. Obviously, not as well as we would have liked,” Muskie boys coach Chris Foxen said. “We would have liked a top-3 spot. Everybody knows that, including us. I thought the guys gave it their all and competed really well. We didn’t get the result we wanted.”
The Muskie girls did, thanks in part to another strong overall team effort.
Brina Kraft led the way with a second-place finish in 14:45 to claim an individual state berth along with teammates Larkin Chapman, who finished fifth in 15:18, and Danielle Roos, who was eighth in 15:24.
Rounding out the Muskie girls scoring lineup was Morter, who was 13th in 15:37, and Regan France, who was 16th in 15:49. Muscatine seniors Cassidy Conway (16:43) and Lauren Keitel (16:49) finished 25th and 28th, respectively.
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“I thought they ran well,” Muskie girls coach Tim Armstrong said. “They have nothing to be ashamed of. No. 2 behind PV, the No. 5-ranked team, and we’re No. 6, I think it shows we belong in the top 10.”
He continued, “They’re very competitive. They don’t want to lose. I think the positive in this is they see they have to put in some good work the next nine days to stay in that top 10 and hopefully beat some teams ahead of us.”
This group, which features four of the runners that helped Muscatine qualify to the state meet last season, isn’t satisfied yet, though.
For instance, Chapman didn’t think she ran quite as well as she wanted to despite finishing fifth overall.
That type of attitude is what the Muskie girls will take with them as they head back to Fort Dodge determined to show they are worthy of their No. 6 ranking after finishing last at state a season ago.
“I think that we’re definitely more competitive this year,” Chapman said. “Last year, we just went to go, basically, and do our best. This time, we’re out to do well. We’re out to place.”
Bautista, who led a Muskies contingent that included Tyler Olson finishing 12th in 17:01, Caleb Hoffman 18th in 17:20, Kyle Hoffman 22nd in 17:30, Eric Heckman 24th in 17:36, Brady Eversmeyer 31st in 17:55 and Garrett Dolan 32nd in 17:56, also wants to make an impression in Fort Dodge.
That fact that he gets that opportunity is surprising considering he had never ran cross country before the season. He had always played football in the fall, but after running track in the spring, and succeeding, he decided to give cross country a shot.
“It was hard in the beginning. Workouts were really hard for me since I’ve never ran before,” Bautista said. “I just had to build up my stamina as the season went on. It really paid off.”
And it was an effort that Foxen said was completely earned.
“I felt like Alex was aggressive and he knew what he wanted today and he went out and took it. He didn’t wait for people to see what was going to happen,” Foxen said. “He raced a very aggressive race. I can tell he was in some discomfort, but he really held and toed the line. He got what he deserved today.”