The Juneau-Douglas High School girls cross country team showed the grit and determination that served them so well throughout the season on Saturday.
The Crimson Bears took fifth place overall at the Alaska School Activities Association State Cross Country Championships at Skyview High School in Soldotna.
"We did really well," JDHS sophomore Kirsten Jorgensen said. "Katie (Krehlik) led us as usual, and she's such a strong runner. We had a really good race."
Despite finishing in 38th place overall, Jorgensen exhibited a champion's heart with her performance.
Jorgensen hung tight with the lead pack throughout the majority of the race and was battling for 10th position down the home stretch.
With about 150 meters to go, however, Jorgensen's body started to give out on her.
Jorgensen collapsed after a bout of fatigue and dizziness with the finish line in sight.
"I think I worked myself to the point where I couldn't go any further or any harder," Jorgensen said. "This year, I felt good until the last part, then my body just shut down and I staggered and fell down."
Soldotna's course is an unrelenting torrent of steep climbs and tough competition.
By the end of the race, Jorgensen's body wilted to the terrain.
While Jorgensen's body felt exhausted, her mind and spirit would not allow her to quit.
Jorgensen got to her feet and completed the race, checking in in 38th position.
"It's not in me not to finish things," Jorgensen said. "I just wanted to keep going. I slowed down and it took me about a minute and a half to go 30 yards at the end."
Jorgensen, a sophomore, completed the course in 21 minutes, 26.1 seconds.
Krehlik proved the Crimson Bears' top runner by taking fifth place overall at 19:42.5.
The sophomore broke through the pack in the beginning of the race and darted toward the lead runners for the majority of the race.
"I was kind of stuck in the middle, but then there was some space and then I just moved my way through and went up," Krehlik said. "Then I got in the middle of the front pack."
West Valley's Crystal Pitney cruised to the individual championship by winning in 18:57, 26 seconds ahead of the second-place competitor.
The battle for second was heated, however, as Krehlik passed West Anchorage's Shoshana Keegan but then was overtaken by Jackie Holt of Service midway through the race.
Keegan later took the lead and held on for second place, but Krehlik found herself in a battle for fourth with West's Ariel Roelle.
"At the end I had to run really hard because Ariel was just behind me, and I had to go hard," Krehlik said. "She almost passed me."
Krehlik improved on last year's state championship performance by more than a minute.
"Katie moved up nicely from the mid-teens last year to fifth place," JDHS coach Guy Thibodeau said. "She was running in second place after a couple of kilometers but wasn't able to hold out. Then she recovered nicely to run and hold off that second pack of girls in the top 10."
Juneau-Douglas sophomore Leigh Miller took 29th place overall, finishing in 21:06.7.
Crimson Bears' teammate Jordan Moser took 31st while sophomore Isabel Bush claimed 34th place.
JDHS runner Jordan Harvey and Brittany Lehnhart took 51st and 52nd place, respectively.
In the Class 1-2-3A competition, Haines had two runners place in the top five.
J.J. Lende took third place at 20:02.2 while Stoli Lende took fifth place at 20:37.4.
Haines' Christine Hansen finished ninth overall in the small-school division.
Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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