When Ali Deitsch reached the finish line Saturday in the 4A girls' race at the state meet, the Palmer Ridge senior didn't only find joy in a third-place finish

The true joy was sharing that excitement with friends who fought the battle together. That's the cross country sorority.

"In running, you have a team, but sometimes, it's hard to be an individual in this sport," Deitsch said. "It's so competitive that it helps to have support outside it from those who understand."

One of Deitsch's longtime friends, fellow senior Lauren Hamilton of The Classical Academy, finished seven spots behind, not quite a minute later.

If Hamilton was disappointed with her finish, three spots below her effort at the 2012 state meet, she didn't show it. After 5,000 meters on a challenging course, just making it to the end upright seemed to be an accomplishment in itself.

And finding a friend nearby is quite the bonus.

"Ali and I have a great relationship," Hamilton said. "We cheer each other on, and it's a relief to finish a race and see someone you know. We're able to share that passion for running and share the love. It's a relaxing feeling when you get to hug someone after a race like that."

Hamilton credited Deitsch and her competitors for bringing out the best in her.

"Before and after the race, we cheer each other on," Hamilton said. "It's amazing to see those ladies up there in the front. It makes me want to run harder, just to push harder. I'm so happy we have all that competition to run with."

While the friendships last forever, the seasons seem to fly by. Especially for the seniors.

"We just had our last cross country practice," said St. Mary's senior Elena Slavoski, who finished eighth in the 3A girls' race. "It seems like a minute ago I was at my first cross country practice in my freshman year. It flew by."