If not for the fact the Midwest Collegiate Conference Championship was potentially the last race of the season, Tanner Arntzen may have opted to rest.
"I was contemplating on sitting this one out," he said.
A stomach virus forced Arntzen, a sophomore cross country runner at St. Ambrose University and a Quincy Notre Dame graduate, to visit the hospital early last week for fear it was something worse, like appendicitis.
"It turned out to be negative," Arntzen said.
It still had a negative effect.
"I didn't have time to recover and eat properly," Arntzen said. "It took me out of my routine."
But it didn't slow him down.
Although he didn't train most of last week, Arntzen lined up for last Saturday's race at Crow Creek Park in Bettendorf, Iowa, and delivered a performance that won't be forgotten.
Arntzen finished 10th individually, bypassing Mount Mercy's Mitch Johnson in the final 10 yards and edging him at the tape by the length of one stride. That distance -- roughly a yard -- proved to be the difference between a berth in the NAIA national championships and the end of the season.
St. Ambrose won the MCC title by two points over Mount Mercy because of Arntzen's kick. Had he been beaten to the line by Johnson, the teams would have tied with 33 points apiece and Mount Mercy would have won the tiebreaker.
"It's pretty amazing that he even ran and more amazing that he was the difference," said St. Ambrose coach Dan Ziemet, whose team will run at the national meet Nov. 17 in Fort Vancouver, Wash. "I expected him to run and I didn't know how he would do. His ability to rise to the occasion tells me the kind of person he is and the type of competitor he is."
That's someone who won't give in.
As a freshman, Arntzen ran at the back of the Bees' pack as he made adjustments to different training and running longer courses. The learning curve was steep because he had to figure out how fast to run at the beginning of a race, how to pace himself and when to kick it in.
Race by race, he discovered what worked, so much so that last weekend's finish was one of his best of the season.
How it unfolded made it remarkable.
Coming down the final straightaway, Johnson led Arntzen by about 5 yards and the two were shoulder to shoulder until the final steps. Although he didn't know if it would be the difference maker, Arntzen had a feeling it might play a part in the outcome.
"I didn't know if it was enough," he said.
No one did.
"It was too close to tell at that point in time," Ziemet said. "I knew it was a runner here or a runner there."
The Bees had to wait until the final results were announced to learn their fate.
"The whole team was anxious," Ziemet said.
It made the celebration even sweeter.
"If I wouldn't have passed him, we wouldn't be going to nationals," Arntzen said. "I'm glad we've made it. The competition is going to be crazy. I'm looking forward to getting there and enjoying it."
He earned that.