Mountain View junior Allison Sturges won her second consecutive Central Coast Section Division II title this year -- and set a personal record in the process -- but she still wasn't thrilled with her performance.
"It was a PR for me," she said, "but I would have liked to have a better PR."
That drive to get better has turned Sturges into one of the best runners in the state and earned her back-to-back selections as Mercury News cross-country runner of the year.
"Unless she's running a PR, she's not completely happy," Mountain View coach Jim Bordoni said. "She races like a champion every time. She can race from in front, she can race from behind."
One of only two returning Spartan runners, Sturges ran an 18:48 on the 3.1-mile course at Toro County Park in Salinas to lead Mountain View to a second consecutive CCS title.
At the state meet in Fresno, Sturges finished 26th, completing the 3.1-mile Woodward Park course in 18:36.
Sturges finished a spot lower and eight seconds slower than in 2009, but had the best performance of any girls CCS runner.
"A lot of times when I don't have the race I wanted, I come away a little down on myself," Sturges said.
"And people tell me, 'You still ran a great race. Your time is so good.' I need to kind of shake it off but I need to consider that I should be running those times."
The scariest part about Sturges is not the fact that she's won two CCS titles in a row.
It's that cross country isn't even her forte. She placed sixth in the 1,600 at the state meet last year and will try to better that this spring.
"She's no less determined than she ever was," Bordoni said. "The kid keeps pushing herself."
There's a grinding, nearly nine-mile loop in the Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve known as the PG&E trail.
With relentless uphill stretches, Mountain View coach Jim Bordoni said it's the type of course teams run just a few times a season.
Spartans senior Parker Schuh runs it every day.
"Most kids will break down," Bordoni said. "Their bodies wouldn't be able to handle it. The toughest run there is. He tries to do it as much as possible."
Schuh's work ethic has paid off. The Mercury News cross-country runner of the year finished second in Division II at the state meet in Fresno last month after running the 3.1-mile Woodward Park course in a personal-record 15:12. He came in behind Loyola senior Elias Gedyon, the sixth-ranked runner in the nation.
Ask Schuh about his workout trail, though, and he won't say it's that tough.
"A lot of people think it's a lot worse than it really is because it's a lot of uphill," he said.
Schuh, one of two returners from the Spartans' 2009 state championship team, also won a league title this year.
One of his few off races of the season came at the Central Coast Section meet at Toro County Park in Salinas, where he finished second on the 3.1-mile course with a 15:35, 14 seconds behind Los Gatos senior Will Geiken.
"My body just wasn't up for it that day," Schuh said.
At state this year, Schuh ran 33 seconds faster and finished 21 spots higher than the previous year. He gambled by trying to keep with the leaders early, and it paid off.
Bordoni said he saw at least a top-10 finish coming after Schuh ran a personal record on the uphill portion of the PG&E trail the Tuesday before the state meet.
"So we kind of knew he was ready for something big," Bordoni said.