Three weeks ago, as she prepared to run the New England meet for the final time, Kirstin Sandreuter had a chance to reflect on an unusual autumn.

A Greely High senior, Sandreuter geared up for her final high school fall by logging 50-mile weeks with some twice-daily runs. Her diligence showed when she ran a blazing 5:50 pace at the Beach to Beacon 10K.

Her first cross country race resulted in her first sub-19-minute time over 5 kilometers, and by the end of September she had won the small school division of the Manchester (N.H.) Invitational with an 18:59 clocking.

Then came a painful foot injury and Sandreuter was sidelined for a month. It was a frustrating ordeal and left her wondering whether her regimen of jogging in a pool and riding a bicycle would be enough to maintain her fitness level when (if?) she gained clearance to run again.

“I kept active and I kept figuring out ways I could make the most of it,” she said. “As much as I was trying to trust the process, it was frustrating.”

She finally returned for the Western Class B meet and defended her title in 19:02. A week later, over the same Twin Brook Recreation Area trails, she won her first state title in a personal-best time of 18:37.

One more week, and she was back in Manchester, gazing at a field of New England’s best schoolgirl runners, and uncertain of where she fit in.

“Her goal,” said Coach David Dowling, “was to go with the leaders, see what she could do.”

Sandreuter went out fast. She held the lead at the mile mark. Eventual winner Hannah Debalsi of Staples High of Westport, Conn., took control but Sandreuter stayed within a chase pack and finished fourth (three-tenths of a second out of third) in a time that shocked her: 17:48.

“It’s hard for me still to believe that’s what I really ran,” she said. “I guess it worked out that I was maybe fresher than I would have been (without the injury). That was frustrating but I think it worked out for the better.”

Sandreuter is our girls’ Runner of the Year.

On Saturday at the Foot Locker Northeast Regionals in New York, Sandreuter placed and earned a ticket to San Diego for the national meet Dec. 14.

“She knows what to do with a goal,” Dowling said, “and that’s to show up every day and work hard. She does that in spades. I have to back her off, often.”

Sandreuter is similarly successful in the classroom, where she has achieved the No. 1 academic ranking in her class. She applied early decision to Cornell and should hear by the middle of December.

She also visited Syracuse and Connecticut.

“She’s very driven,” Dowling said, “but modest and easy-going. She’s what we all hope for and get once in a career or so.”

As team captain, Sandreuter organized dinners and spirited events.

“She was conscious of the building-the-team aspect,” Dowling said, “which isn’t always there for the elite athlete.”

Sandreuter’s brother Stefan runs for Colby College. She joined him in North Yarmouth’s summer track program when she was 6.

“It’s simple and fun and you can do it pretty much anywhere,” she said.

Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at:

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