Zoe Johanns started in the lead pack and never left.
The next stop for the Grundy Center junior is a return to the Iowa High School State Cross Country Championships.
Johanns earned her spot at the Oct. 30 state meet in Fort Dodge after a seventh-place finish in Wednesday's Class 1A regional meet at Marshalltown Community College.
Johanns was 36th in last year's state championships as the Spartans advanced as a team. She will be the lone Grundy Center representative this time around.
"Zoe ran really hard and competed very well," said Grundy Center head coach Sam Iverson. "It was her goal to be in the top 10 and she wanted to get back to the state meet. We knew some of the girls she needed to be running with and she ran smart. Zoe had a great start and kept her place."
Lauren Sharp of Dike-New Hartford caught Grace Moore of Mason City Newman Catholic over the last 100 meters for the regional championship in 15 minutes, 35 seconds. Moore was the runner-up in 15:37.
Johanns passed Kaylee Miller of Southeast Warren over the final few strides for her seventh-place showing in 16:35.
"She nipped a girl at the end to get seventh and that was good to see," Iverson said. "Zoe runs an awful lot of mileage and has a pace she likes. As a coach it was great to see her go out and finish like that, going harder than what she knows she can do."
Each of the Spartans' scoring five were juniors as behind Johanns were Abigail Delagardelle (28th, 17:42), Aubrey Clark (34th, 18:01), Annalise Delagardelle (39th, 18:04) and Madison Bowen (67th, 19:27).
Grundy Center had a 150 team total to finish fifth. The Spartans turned the tables on a Gladbrook-Reinbeck (sixth, 155) which had finished ahead of them at Saturday's NICL meet and also closed the gap on Dike-New Hartford (fourth, 124) to finish closest to the Wolverines they have all year, Iverson said.
"It was a good year," Iverson said. "It's a great thing to be able to watch the kids develop year by year by year."
Colo-NESCO sophomore Shelby Dailey will return to the state meet after finishing fourth Thursday. Dailey turned in a time of 16:10.
Third-ranked Earlham was the team champion with 39 points. The Cardinals had six of the top 18 individuals, led by Abbey Murphy in third in 15:59.
Newman Catholic finished second (91) and Lynnville-Sully was third (106) to also earn spots at the state championships.
Gladbrook-Reinbeck took sixth with a 155 total. Lauren Bengen was the first Rebel finisher in 19th place (17:18).
BCLUW was ninth (237). The Comets' Kate Sams was 22nd in 17:28.