CLINTON, Iowa — Muscatine had five girls cross country runners cross the finish line before any other school Thursday at the Mississippi Athletic Conference cross country meet.
Still, it wasn't quite enough to give the Muskies their first MAC championship in school history.
Bettendorf and Muscatine each finished with 50 points, but the Bulldogs won the tiebreaker as their sixth runner placed seven spots ahead of the Muskies' sixth runner.
"We had no idea what position we were in when the race ended," Muscatine junior Brina Kraft said. "Some people thought we won, some said it was a three-way tie. The tension was really high."
Bettendorf, Pleasant Valley and Muscatine have been ranked among the state's top 10 all season in Class 4A.
This time, the Bulldogs' depth pushed them over the top and ended PV's run of 10 straight league championships. The Spartans finished third with 52 points.
"Other than watching my own son race, I think that probably was the most nerve-racking cross country meet I've been to for quite some time," Bettendorf coach Erin Flynn said. "We knew it'd be a dogfight coming in.
"I was kind of nervous when I saw Muscatine had five runners before anyone else, but I know there is not a six that can run with our six. They proved that today."
Muscatine coach Tim Armstrong had no complaints afterward in how his team performed in blustery conditions.
Kraft was third in the 5,000-meter race in 19 minutes, 14 seconds. The Muskies had a strong pack follow with Regan France (10th, 19:50), Larkin Chapman (11th, 19:53), Danielle Roos (12th, 19:54) and Moriah Morter (14th, 20:00).
"It was probably the best team race we've had this year," said Armstrong, whose team was runner-up for the second consecutive year. "I know they were really disheartened because they told me they wanted to win it for me. I was proud of them.
"We ran our hearts out. There is no give with those girls, and you couldn't expect any more than they gave tonight."
PV's McKenzie Yanek cruised to her third consecutive MAC individual title. The senior and Alabama recruit won the 5,000-meter race in 18:12 — 40 seconds clear of Bettendorf's Haley Humphrey.
Kraft was behind them.
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"I could have run a little bit quicker, but everyone feels like that after a race," she said. "There were times I'm running and suddenly a gust of wind almost put me to a stop. You just had to find someone to draft behind."
Armstrong, in particular, was pleased with his team's pack.
"We had the other schools worried because we had four right together," he said. "They laid it all on the line."
It gives the Muskies a surge of momentum going into next Thursday's state-qualifying meet in Cedar Rapids. Armstrong expects Iowa City West to be Muscatine's primary competition.
"We feel we can beat all these teams that are here at state if we run the same race we've been running," Kraft said. "It gives us a good confidence boost going into [next week] and state."
Muscatine boys 3rd, three runners All-MAC
The Muskies scored 78 points, 10 points behind Bettendorf and 60 behind a dominant Pleasant Valley team that won its fifth consecutive conference title.
Earning All-MAC honors for finishing in the top 15 were Alex Bautista, Muscatine's top finisher in eighth place in 17:03. He was followed closely by Tyler Olson in ninth place in 17:08, with Kyle Hoffman coming in 11th in 17:17 to cap the all-conference trio.
"We were excited to have so many runners get all-conference honors," Muscatine coach Chris Foxen said. "It's a testament to how hard these guys worked all season and the talent they developed."
Garrett Dolan placed 16th in a career personal best 17:35 and Cristian Raya was 34th in 18:33 for the Muskies.
"Garrett ran a very solid race, and if it wasn't for his running we wouldn't have even been close to Bettendorf," Foxen said. "This whole team is a great bunch of young men that has developed a work ethic and dedication throughout the season."
The Muskies wanted to be able to overtake Bettendorf like they did at Muscatine's home meet earlier in the season, and, for now, Foxen still considers his team on the bubble for qualifying as a team in a tough state-qualifying meet next week in Cedar Rapids.
"We ended up in one of the tougher districts to be assigned," Foxen said. "If we get any runners through our districts individually or as a team, we'll know that we're very legit."