Air Academy freshman Bethany Michalak knew she took the first mile too fast in the 4A state cross country race.

“I tend to do that,” Michalak said. “Something I definitely need to work on.”

She has three years to improve on it, though in Year 1, she’s already at the top of her class.

Michalak finished in 17:59.1, ahead of Niwot’s Mia Prok (18:02.4) and Eagle Valley’s Samantha Blair (18:14.1). Lewis-Palmer’s Aubrey Surage (18:29.6) and Cheyenne Mountain’s Hope Stark (19:04.0) represented the area in the top 10 at fifth and seventh, respectively.

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“I’m just incredibly thankful for running this race and how it turned out,” Michalak said.

Air Academy finished third with 111 points behind Battle Mountain and Niwot.

The expectations steadily climbed this fall. Michalak said the goal certainly wasn’t a state title at the beginning — it was more like top 20. Then midway through, top 10.

“I really surprised myself with what I was able to run by myself with no one necessarily right on my tail,” Michalak said. “So I was like, ‘Maybe I do have a shot at getting Top 5.’”

A breakout performance at the Cheyenne Mountain Stampede at Norris Penrose on Sept. 11 heavily implied it was possible. Michalak finished in 17:27.5, setting the fastest time by a female freshman in the country.

Temperatures rose earlier than expected Saturday and she found her legs were tired. Top 5, no problem, but Saturday wasn’t going to be the day to make history.

A personal and course record would have been nice, but got to leave something to strive for.

“That’s totally OK,” Michalak, who took first in the country in the 11-12 girls’ age group at the 2018 USATF National Junior Olympic cross country championships, said.

“I mean, I have three more years.”

Cheyenne Mountain resident Lisa Rainsberger trains local youth racers as part of Kokopelli Trail Running Series
Scouting state cross country: Keep your eyes on the 4A and 3A races as Colorado Springs locals aim for state gold
Cross country roundup: Area teams dominate Class 4A, Region 2, led by Air Academy freshman Bethany Michalak
Gazette Preps Peak Performer of the Week: The Classical Academy girls' cross country