From the opening lap it was clear this race would go down to the final strides.
Riley Stewart led the entire field through a blistering 74-second first lap. Typically such an honest pace would string the pack out, leaving only the strongest in the final lap, and in some ways maybe that held true here at the 2019 5A 1,600 state championship.
Prior to the race only two 5A runners had broken five minutes for the distance - Stewart and Cameron McConnell, but by the end of the race there'd be a third.
Hovering off Stewart's right shoulder was perhaps the most dangerous kicker in the field - Marlena Preigh.
A day earlier Preigh torched the field in the 800. She took the lead before the first curve had straightened, and never looked back. She stretched the race wide opened and evaded capture, running 2:08.55. Lily Williams made gains in the final 100, but Preigh's early pace was took much, and Williams finished a second back in 2:09.10.
It was clear she had no intentions of employing such tactics here, however.
Heading into the second lap Preigh took loose, comfortable strides, as if the five-minute clip was that easy. Behind her the pack remained tight, with McConnell and Keely Jones running side-by-side.
The quick first lap was countered with a solid second lap that saw the pace lag just a bit. Up front the scene remained the same: Stewart leading, eyes caste forward, with Preigh just over her shoulder.
The Cherry Creek (then) freshman led the Fairview (then) senior through the halfway point in 2:32 with the entire field still in the race.
But that wouldn't last.
Off and around the track they went for the third time and the pace began to take its toll on the field. A slight gap formed, separating the Top-10 from the remaining eight.
The two packs gradually stretched as the race ran onwards into the final 500 meters.
And up front the scene remained identical.
Stewart led Preigh into the bell lap, passing the finish line in 3:50 - the slowest lap so far, while McConnell and Jones ran stride for stride off their heels.
The 78-second third lap seemingly played right into Preigh's hands, as she was clearly the only runner in the field with a sub-2:09 half-mile in her resume, along with 56-second quarter-miler speed.
Preigh crept up ever so slightly on Stewart's shoulder as they rounded the track, onwards into the final 300 meters.
Heading into the back stretch for the final time the race had dwindled down to four - Stewart, Preigh, McConnell, and Jones.
Stewart went to the arms, pumping hard while Preigh continued to stride over the track effortless. With 200 meters to go the tether that held them all together began to stretch and break, as Stewart and Preigh inched forward, away from McConnell and Jones.
With 150 meters of track beneath them to the finish line Preigh pounced.
The Fairview senior climbed even with Stewart on the outside of Lane 1 for the first time in the race, then shifted gears.
As the two hit the straight Preigh powered around the turn and solely into Lane 1. She punched the air with no one besides her, or in front of her, like she had a day earlier in the 800.
Every stride added distance between her and Stewart.
Meanwhile, McConnell began kicking wildly down the straight, eating up ground faster than everyone including Preigh.
The Cherokee Trail (then) freshman cruised by Stewart in the final 40 meters, and inched towards Preigh, but she ran out of real estate.
Preigh captured her second state title of the meet with a stellar 69-second final lap. She crossed just under five minutes, running 4:59.53.
McConnell crossed a second later in 5:00.25, just ahead of Stewart's 5:00.72. Jones held on for fourth, running 5:02.77.