Makenna Mazeski hovered 20 meters back.
The Cherokee Trail freshman eyed the familiar back of Cameron McConnell, who was setting a hot pace up ahead, while behind her the gap was just as sizable.
The race was still young, about two minutes in, in fact, but Mazeski was already finding herself alone on a boat in the middle of the Atlantic.
She could dig in a little deeper into that thick green grass at Clement Park and surge her way back on to the shoulder of her teammate, or she could sit back and let the pack gulp her up before kicking in to the safety of a runner-up finish.
Clearly the more challenging option was appealing, because Mazeski went to work. And the job was no easy task - chasing the fastest freshman of 2018, and one of the best runners in the state in 2019 is no jog in the park.
This was more of a legit race in the park, and when the fastest freshman of 2019 surged by the fastest freshman of 2018, the moment may have appeared to be a Passing of the Torch, but given that Mazeski and McConnell are on the same team, the moment just made Cherokee Trail as a whole all the more dangerous.
Mazeski powered off and away, cruising into the shoot alone in 18:35 - the first victory of her high school career. Behind her, McConnell gave Cherokee Trail a decisive 1-2 punch, finishing in the runner-up spot in 18:51, just ahead of surprise third-place finisher Anna Swanson.
While the course was running much, much slower than usual, Swanson made big gains, running 18:56 - her second Sub-19 clocking of the season.
Cherokee Trail dominated the team race, scoring 31 points, while Arapahoe took the runner-up with 69, and Heritage finished third with 133.
Temperatures soared into the mid 80s, which any runner will tell you isn't exactly ideal. And that once gentle breeze that dried the sweat dripping down the face quickly turned brutal, as portions of the Denver area were experiencing a "Red Flag" warning, as if anyone needed any additional challenges.
But hey, distance runners are a tough breed, and it showed Friday afternoon at the Dave Sanders Invitational.
In a race named in honor of the late, great Dave Sanders, runners paid ode to his fearless feats in their own way, namely, leaving it all out of the course.
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