It was a battle that lived up to the hype.
U.S. No. 18, Niwot, vs last year's NXN cinderella squad, Battle Mountain, went down to the wire. Niwot's Roebke and James tallied just three points between the two of them, though Battle Mountain battled all the way to the fifth runner.
With both squad's putting two within the top 10, it was time to count...
Niwot's Joelle McDonald was the next runner between the two squads to finish, crossing in 12th, just ahead of Battle Mountain's No. 3. Lizzy Harding, who finished 13th.
Pre-race favorite Samrawit Dishon battled through injury to toe the line for her squad, and despite not taking the title, she still finished fourth for her team, and 15th overall. Once again, Battle Mountain was just a few spots back, with Elliot Pribramsky finishing 18th.
For every Niwot runner, Battle Mountain responded with one of their own, though Niwot was always just one step ahead, literally. And what gave them the edge was the 1-2 finish of Roebke and James. And even then, Dishon - a 17:24 5ker, still toed the line and finished 15th despite not being at full strength.
The team battle was close enough that no one knew for sure what the official tally was until it was announced. Niwot stood side by side, holding hands with their heads low, listening intently, while Battle Mountain stood in a circle, eyes cast down as well.
When the announcer echoed out the result, the poetic lines of The thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat, lingered into the air, as Battle Mountain was announced as the runner-up.
Niwot cheered in excitement, while Battle Mountain quietly made their way to the podium to accept their runner-up trophy.
When the official tally was in, it was Niwot 47, Battle Mountain 59. Air Academy was a distant third, tallying 119 points.