More than a few eyebrows raised when Air Academy didn't enter Katie Rainsberger in last week's league championship race at Fountain Valley Regional Park.
Don't worry. All is well with the Kadets sophomore.
The field at the 4A Region 2 cross country race found that out personally on Thursday.
Rainsberger, last year's runner-up at the 4A state cross country meet, blew away the competition, defending her regional title after opening up a big, early lead and cruising. She finished the race in 17 minutes, 39 seconds, a whopping 53 seconds ahead of Palmer Ridge senior Ali Deitsch.
"I make sure I take two weeks off of racing before regionals," Rainsberger said. "It's important to take a break from the mental stress of racing every week. I got confidence by getting solid workouts, but on my first race back, it was all about finding that pain zone again, that uncomfortable pace you don't think you can do, but you find in the race."
Just past the first mile, Rainsberger had built a solid pad in front of Deitsch and The Classical Academy senior Lauren Hamilton. As the race progressed, the gap grew even larger as the runners wound around the dirt-packed trails of Monument Valley Park.
Without pressure from the pack, Rainsberger knew it would have been easy to relax.
"It's hard to find the motivation within yourself," Rainsberger said. "That's one of the hardest things to do. People say it's hard to have competition. In reality, it's hard to have no competition. You think you're going all out, but you realize you're not."
Rainsberger's championship highlighted a title-winning day for Air Academy, which also claimed both team titles. The girls' team nipped TCA by just one point, reversing last year's result when the Titans earned a slim victory.