For four years now, Chloe Newell has been on the cusp.
She's always been fast - a household name, even - but with competition fierce in Southern Arizona, Sahuaro's top runner has had to be painstakingly patient.
After winning Saturday's Division II cross country sectional at Marana High School, it appears Newell's time has come.
She finished the 3.1-mile course in 18 minutes 58.8 seconds and is the No. 1 seed heading into Saturday's state championship meet at Cave Creek Golf Course in Phoenix.
"I knew there would be competition but I kind of expected (to win)," said Newell, who finished third last year behind Nogales' K.C. Zuniga and Mountain View's Kerri Lenihan, each of whom graduated in May.
Newell's passion was never in question. She finished nearly a minute ahead of runner-up Zoe Urcadez from Salpointe Catholic (19:54.4). Canyon del Oro's Sarrah Boughan (19:59.1) was third.
Equally impressive was Sahuaro's team performance. The Cougars placed five runners in the top 22, scoring 58 points to beat out Ironwood Ridge (87) and Catalina Foothills (88).
Newell thought Sahuaro would win but said she was "shocked" Foothills wasn't closer. The Cougars' runners were comfortable with the Marana course, having run a dual meet there just two weeks ago. Many of the young Foothills runners were unfamiliar with the desert-dominated course, however.
"Lots of my team hadn't seen it," Foothills freshman Hannah Whetzel said.
CDO senior Lucas Rischar saw the course for the first time at the Rattler Invitational earlier this month. The result was an "absolutely amazing" advantage.
"Going into the course, I was really confident that I could do well," Rischar said.
He finished seventh, anchoring a CDO boys team that ran away with a victory. The Dorados scored 69 points, finishing ahead of Ironwood Ridge (129) and Maricopa (150). Maricopa's Chris Lessard won the boys race in 16:32.
"The pack was really close and I saw my (teammates) a couple times," Rischar said. "It really helps motivate the group when you know you're all together."
Under the current system, now in its second year, the top half of Saturday's team finishers earned a spot at state, while the top 25 individuals also qualified.
Nogales' girls team will be absent at state just a year after winning a team championship. The Apaches finished in 10th place and will send only senior Lilia Moncada, who finished 16th.
Salpointe had a bit of a lucky day, being the final Division II team to qualify in girls and boys.