A middle school state cross country champion in 2014, the ability to achieve at the next level was already entrenched in Quinn McConnell's heart when she stepped out for her freshman season at Peak to Peak Charter School.
Yet, she still surpassed her own expectations and perhaps that of most everyone familiar with Colorado's prep running scene.
Her debut season included a Class 3A state championship — setting her up for what could be a special run only a few have accomplished — but that was far from her only season highlight as the BoCoPreps.com girls cross country runner of the year.
Not every season can go perfect, and McConnell can attest to that as she was unable to compete in the Nike Southwest Regional meet just prior to Thanksgiving. However, she walked away from her freshman campaign a runaway stud with some of her performances.
"I tried not to put a lot of pressure on myself after winning the middle school state meet, and I just tried to get in a good summer and see what I could do with the team," McConnell said recently, on rest right now but making the turn quickly toward track season. "It was more mileage, and more focused — but other than that it wasn't too different.
"I definitely surprised myself, but I'm really happy with the results."
McConnell's state time of 18 minutes, 39 seconds was one of the fastest girls times regardless of classification, and that followed her best in-state run of 18:32 at the Class 3A Region 3 meet in Lyons. She also won the 2A/3A St. Vrain Invitational on the same course as the regional.
But it was at the Stanford Invitational in late September when the true potential really was put on display. At that race, there were 451 national elite standard times between the boys and girls races — and McConnell produced the fifth fastest girls time at 17:39.
"I wanted to break 18 but I wasn't too set on it," McConnell said of her goals in Palo Alto. "I just went all out, and when I heard my mile and 2-mile times I knew I could do well under 18. I pressed it ... and it was so fun."
"I usually am able to tell the kids what I think they're going to run in a given race, just seeing what they've done in training, and Quinn just continued to run faster than I expected every time," said Kim McConnell, Quinn's mother and coach. "Stanford surprised me a lot. That turned out to be the third-best time in the nation for freshmen, and after that I really kind of re-calibrated how good she can be."
Multiple-time state champions don't come around very often, but McConnell is eager to see what she can do the next three years.
"Katie Rainsberger (of Air Academy) and Lauren Gregory (Fort Collins) were both middle-school champions ... to be able to see what they've been able to do is pretty cool," McConnell said. "I hope to be like that one day."