Given the way Courtney Alama’s track and field season went, she felt unsettled about her personal performance with cross country on the way.
“I was a little worried because I didn’t have the best track season,” Alama said.
“I trained harder over the summer because I knew it was my last year and I had to keep telling myself ‘this is your last chance.’ “
But her fear of disappointment turned into satisfaction and triumph for herself and her cross country team by the beginning of November.
Alama finished fifth in the final race of her high school career and helped lead Annandale to the Class A state championship. The senior was chosen Times all-area girls cross country runner of the year.
“Very few athletes in any sport would be able to be as successful as she’s been,” Annandale coach Scott Massmann said. “If she had two races in her entire career I thought were subpar, it would be hard to think of what those two races would be.”
Alama finished the season with the Wright County Conference championship and five first-place finishes in five regular season races to cap her six-year career.
“She’s a very mentally tough young lady,” Massmann said. “With all the things that go with endurance athletes, Courtney’s really been able to keep incredible balance.
“She takes good care of her body and doesn’t put too much emphasis on running.”
Alama plans to continue running competitively in college but she’s not sure which division she’ll land in.
Minnesota (Division I), Minnesota State-Mankato (Division II) and St. Benedict (Division III) all have Alama’s interest.
“I haven’t decided where I’m going, but I decided I’m going to run,” Alama said.
Alama’s cross country career started in seventh grade when she signed up because her sister had run for Annandale.
It didn’t take her long to move up from the middle school team to varsity.
“When I was in junior high running those races, I’d always win them but I didn’t really realize what I was doing,” Alama said.
“Halfway through that season, Massmann told me to try to run JV to see if I could run varsity.”
She made it to state that season and every one after that, took fifth place as an eighth-grader in 2009 and qualified for all-state five times.
Alama’s senior year began with a lot of promise for the Cardinals as a team.
Annandale was coming off a second-place finish at the state meet one year earlier and the Cardinals were equipped with two top threats: Alama and freshman Elizabeth Schlafke.
“Every single race, we were within 30 seconds of each other all season,” Alama said. “It helps us both to have each other to keep pushing. We work off each other.”
While Alama won the conference title, Schlafke took the Section 5A crown and finished one spot ahead Alama at the state meet.
Schlafke crossed the finish line 2½ seconds ahead of Alama, but what really mattered to Alama was that when the points were added up, Annandale had the fewest.
The Cardinals won the title, giving Annandale its first championship in any sport.
“We worked so hard for it,” Alama said. “We got second the last year so we knew we had a chance and we wanted it so bad.
“We were in training to win it from the beginning.”