Emily Beckner picked up the first big win of her high school career.
The pack of what once was six had dwindled down to two, and the Fort Collins freshman was running in new territory with each stride. She entered the meet with a 18:42 personal best, compliments of that track of a course at Liberty Bell, but as she cruised through the halfway point off Miller's shoulder she was running along as a much faster clip, and she felt good.
"I think I can go faster..."
The thought crossed her mind like big bold letters across the sky.
Beckner decided to listen to the inner voices that were driving her on, and soon she was flying freely without any shadows of her own.
Each step brought another one, and then another, and another. And soon the freshman wasn't just winning the race, or off on journey towards a new PR, she was chasing sub-18.
"I told myself I just had to keep pushing it until the end," she explained."
Beckner attacked the final 600 meters that rolled down a gradual hill before turning sharply to the right and into the final green straightway. Her head gently leaned back but her eyes remained focused on the ground soon to be covered.
The freshmen pumped her arms up the final straightway while nearly every spectator had to double-take the surprise winner of the Thornton Invitational.
Beckner cruised across the finish line to capture the first victory of her high school career in 18:04 - a 38 second PR.
Adding to Beckner's impressive performance was who she beat to the line Friday. A stellar field came out ran great races of their own.
Broomfield's Sydney Swanker used a more conservative approach to the race. While the front pack had already established itself early on, Swanker hovered nearly 50 meters back and ate stragglers in the final miles. The strategy paid off, as Swanker kicked to the runner-up finish in 18:16. Miller fought hard and held on for third, also running 18:16.
And Beckner wasn't the only freshmen with an impressive race. Fossil Ridge's Lena Fogarty finished fourth in 18:21 - a 59-second PR.
In other words, almost a minute...
All in all, 11 girls broke 19 minutes.
The team race came down to 10 points, and it was a battle among the best in 5A. Just 10 points separated the winner and second place. And the winner on this day was 5A No. 5 Fossil Ridge, who tallied 73 points. They pumped their top five into the top 21 to beat 5A No.4 Fairview's 83 points.