COLORADO SPRINGS -- Elise Cranny turned in a race for the ages.

In one of the most memorable finishes ever at the state cross country championships, the junior from Niwot pulled off the unthinkable. Facing a sizeable deficit down the stretch, Cranny turned on the jets and surpassed Air Academy freshman Katie Rainsberger just steps in front of the finish line.

As the surging Cranny burst through the tape, she not only capped a remarkable comeback, but she became the first individual cross country state title winner n Niwot history.

"We were together and at about two and a half miles I thought I could take off, but she held on," Cranny said. "At the little hill (before the finish) she just took off and I didn't have it. I thought it was over. But I came into the stadium and I saw her and I knew I had to give my best and leave it all out there. So I decided to give it my all."

Cranny's late surge brought spectators to their feet at the Norris Penrose Event Center and inarguably provided the highlight of the day among the eight state final races. Rainsberger had practically etched her name among the state's all-time list of state champions but evidently used her final reserves of energy taking the lead from Cranny. Niwot's standout clearly had kept some gas in the tank, and Cranny used every ounce of it to overtake Rainsberger.

"She finished like she wanted that state title," Niwot coach Sam Catterson said. "It really goes to show, because at 300 meters out it didn't even look like it could be that close. There was a pretty significant lead and there wasn't that much space left. But Elise is so disciplined. She stayed focused and hammered through the finish.

"It just demonstrates you have to keep your head in the race no matter where you are. She's the most competitive kid I've ever met. She's just so focused and it's like her job. She came here to win, and she was going to do everything she could to get there."

Cranny finished with a winning time of 18 minutes, 41.36 seconds compared to the final mark of 18:41.46 for Rainsberger.

"I definitely loved that they finished in the stadium, because everyone was cheering and that made me go even harder all the way to the last second," said Cranny, who finished second at state last year. "It feels really good. It helped me at the end having a team behind me, because you have to give it your all for them, too."

Cranny was joined on the medals podium by sophomore teammate Christa Boettiger, who capped her first season on Niwot's varsity squad by finishing ninth with a time of 19:46.1. Cranny and Boettiger led the Niwot girls squad to a 10th-place finish in the 4A team standings.

"Elise it the perfect role model for Christa and they're really similar," Catterson said. "They both work really hard. They're both really focused, really determined. Every little thing that Elise does right, Christa has picked up."

Follow Pat Rooney on Twitter: @prooney07