9... 10... 11...
The clock ticked onward, counting seconds between the gap.
Emma Stutzman pumped her arms up the gradual hill through the opening mile while her tight blonde ponytail dangled side to side. Her light blue eyes were caste down on the terrain in front of her, as if scanning every last detail.
Despite being just three minutes into Thursday's 5A Region 3 Championships, the Pomona sophomore was already stretching her lead into double-digits.
By the time she reached the mile she was ahead just over 15 seconds.
And it only grew.
By two miles her lead had grown to over half-a-minute. Despite the vast ocean between her and her chasers, Stutzman continued to pour on the pace, pushing her limits as if testing the waters for next week's Big Dance down in Colorado Springs.
The word "relentless" comes to mind here...
Nearing 4,000 meters Stutzman grimaced in pain every few strides - she was clearly feeling the effort of this dress rehearsal for next week's State Championships, but she stormed onwards.
While victory was assuredly in her back pocket within the opening strides, she raged from start to finish, putting a dominating stamp of Stutzman on the course.
A year ago she had to kick hard over the final 400 to claim her first region title. Thursday she cruised over the final 100 meters in an articulate stride that oozed power.
The work was done. This was her victory "lap."
And while a year ago she needed these final strides to solidify the win, she didn't this time around. Stutzman defended her region title in dominating fashion.
She even had the time and energy to stop her watch just as she crossed the finish line. Her winning time was 18:57.
While Stutzman's victory was undeniable, the race behind her was hotly contested.
Broomfield's Maelynn Higgins poured her heart into the final mile to place second. Her big finish would hint at what was to come in the team race, which was way to close to call when the race was over - this one would go down to single digits, and worth a double-count.
Higgins finished in 19:14.
Laura Romero finished just six seconds later, running 19:20 - that started Denver East's scoring.
And the tally began.
Six seconds after Romero Sierra Parks finished, however, and it appeared Broomfield was on their way to a big upset.
Mia Mraz finished fifth in 19:34, and the result would be huge for the Legacy junior - it sealed her individual qualifier for next week's State meet.
Broomfield was the first squad to put three in the top-ten with Paisley Williamson, who finished ninth.
But Fairview wasn't ready to go silently into the night.
Leading them was Imani Fernandez-Gorbea, who finished seventh. Fairview put five in the top-18, and five ahead of Broomfield's four.
But that Broomfield 1-2-3 was too strong to be denied.
The tight team race went into the single digits, but when the tallying was complete Broomfield emerged as the champions, beating out Fairview and Denver East.
Broomfield tallied 61 points - four ahead of Fairview's 65. Denver East took the third qualifying spot with 91 points to edge out Boulder's 103.
Next Page: Murphy Leads Fairview To State, Broomfield Nearly Steals The Show