And senior Maddie Bain, racing for Woodbury Central-Kingsley Pierson, did just that.
The rural Kingsley runner sliced a third of a minute of her personal best time to secure an 18th place finish at the Iowa 2A Girls Cross Country State Championships Saturday in Fort Dodge.
"She ran very well," said Woodbury Central-KP cross country coach Jill Gallagher. "It was her goal to break 16 minutes and she ran it in 15:46."
Bain stayed toward the front in the 126-person race, keeping in the 12th-20th place range the whole race, Gallagher said.
In the last leg of the race, Bain took it up a notch. running side-by-side with another racer, Bain passed one more girl while closing in on the finish line, the coach said.
The 2A race winner was Cassandra Stuflick, a senior at Danville/New London, with a time of 14:54.
As a senior, Bain decided to go all in with cross country, Gallagher said.
In the previous two years, Bain had split her energy between volleyball and cross country in the fall season.
"This year she decided to focus on cross country and that certainly worked out," Gallagher said.
Early in the season, Bain had her eyes on the state meet, the coach said.
"She changed her diet, stopped drinking pop and eating sweets," Gallagher said. "She decided this is what she wanted to do and just got there."
Toward the beginning of the season, many of the girls team members weren't able to run.
Bain decided to train with the boys team.
"She pushed herself and ran with the boys every day, and I think that really benefitted her," Gallagher said.
Bain placed first at several meets this season.
At the state qualifying meet, Bain pushed herself to finish in a time of 16:06, at that time her personal best
"She said, 'I want to break that 16 mark,' and she did," Gallagher said.
The coach noted Bain had raced on a state track relay team last year, and that experience may have shaped her cross country focus.
"So much of it is just deciding and really going out and pushing yourself," Gallagher said. "You gotta get out front and make them catch you instead of picking people off."
After the state race, Bain and Gallagher celebrated with a soda and a piece of cake and ice cream.
She earned it, Gallagher said.