Elizabeth Carpino was the top runner for the Lee's Summit North girls cross country as a junior 2012 but, in the mind of coach Ryan Shortino, didn't have a stranglehold on that position.
Carpino left no question marks this season.
The Bronco senior won the Suburban Big Six conference meet and was second at districts and sectionals before finishing in seventh place at the Class 4 state meet, leading North to a sixth-place team finish. She is The Examiner's Girls Runner of the Year.
"Very well-deserved," Shortino said of the honor. "We didn't really have a leader, and after that first race, she kind of took that role and decided she was going to be the No. 1 runner. It finally kind of clicked with her this year. She was our No. 1 last year; this year she kind of solidified it and never looked back."
After placing 86th (20:37), 61st (21:01) and 63rd (20:28) her first three seasons at the Class 4 state meet, Carpino covered the Oak Hills Golf Center course at Jefferson City in 18:53.18 this season, helping the Broncos to their best state finish since they took fourth her freshman season.
It capped a season far beyond what Carpino had hoped for.
"It definitely exceeded my expectations," she said. "My only goal was to finish strong and be all-state, and I did more than that."
Carpino, who plans to run for the University of Nebraska after she graduates, said she realized how special her senior season could be after running in KC Metro at Raymore-Peculiar High School.
"It was a pretty good finish for me,” she said. “I talked with coach, and he said we have a lot to look forward."
Shortino said he believes part of Carpino's motivation came from within the family – current Arkansas runner Rachel Carpino.
"Her sister came through couple years back, and I think she wanted to be better than her," Shortino said. "Rachel was an all-state athlete. Starting the year, (Elizabeth) ran well the first couple meets, and her work ethic this year was way more than we had seen.
"She's hard-headed. When she wants something, she's going to go get it."
Elizabeth admitted that Rachel's presence gave her a good path to follow.
"I definitely looked up to her," the younger Carpino said. "We always joked that I was going to be beat all her records. Having her there helped me, because I knew before I came to high school what to look for and I could expect as a runner. I wanted to exceed her performances."
Time-wise she didn't quite do that, due in part to course changes, but Elizabeth said her sister still was quite proud.
Page 2 of 2 - "She was there at state cheering me on," Elizabeth said. "I got done and said, 'What did I do?' and she came up and hugged me. She was very emotional."