Sarah O'Sullivan held her cards tight. She ran, confident and steady; focused on the next stride while that powerful engine hummed as she ran on at just under a 5:55 clip.
Beside her, teammate Jenna Fitzsimmons ran stride for stride with that trademark pained expression of a runner willing and currently pushing their limits to new heights.
While they shared identical green singlets, and likely the black magic marker to write their names down their left leg, they also shared one more thing in common: a winning deck.
It was a story of great contrast, though yielding similar results.
On one end, O'Sullivan was running her fourth race of the season, a season of which she's won every 5k she's run, while on the other end, Fitzsimmons - the two-time defending state champion - was racing for the first time since Nike Cross Nationals last December.
And while they came to the final mile of the Pat Patten Invite from different angles, they merged on the course and fed of each other's energy.
Two is better than one.
O'Sullivan and Fitzsimmons appeared locked, or tethered together as they pumped hard up the long final hill that teases the runner by passing the finishing line.
You can hear the cheers, feel the crowd, but you're not done yet.
They had dismantled the field - of mostly Vista Nation teammates - early, and ran on in tandem like any other practice. Business as usual. After taking the right turn around the trees they leaned forward and tore down the grassy hill towards the finish.
O'Sullivan took the turn wide while Fitzsimmons hugged the inside of the course, and for a moment it appeared the tether that once held them together was broken and it'd be a free for all kick to the finish.
But as they sprinted onwards, they gravitated back towards each other. They had run the previous three miles together, and with every stride it appeared that the final 200 meters wouldn't separate them either.
That familiar crescendo of anxiety from the crowd roared out as O'Sullivan and Fitzsimmons neared the line, taking the attention of every phone with a camera with them.
When the duo crossed the line no one knew who won, not even O'Sullivan or Fitzsimmons. They embraced between breathes and cracked fatigued smiles, happy to have conquered the course and the field with a dominating 1-2 finish.
When the dust settled, they both were clocked at 18:20, though O'Sullivan would get the tenth-of-a-second nod of victory.
With the result, the long-anticipated comeback of Fitzsimmons proved that she's fitter than ever, and that the defending state champ - and US No. 18 squad - is ready for another NXN run...
And just like that, Mountain Vista had a 1-2 finish at Pat Patten - and they weren't done. But before we get to that...
That 1-2 Mountain Vista finish at Patten has a ring to it... I know it... Like it's happened before...
Flashback: Fitzsimmons and O'Sullivan went 1-2 in 2017 - with Fitzsimmons taking the win in 18:17, and O'Sullivan in second in 18:27.
While the flatirons hid in the clouds, stealing that iconic Boulder view from the many spectators below, the 2019 edition of the Pat Patten Invite was a real burner across the board.
Next Page: Mountain Vista Girls Dominate