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KIRTLAND – The tail end of 2018 is just the beginning of Aisha Ramone's rise among the New Mexico cross country elites.

After logging a personal best 18 minutes, 57 seconds at the 2018 Nike Desert Twilight Cross Country Festival in Casa Grande, Arizona, the Kirtland Central Lady Broncos runner concluded 2018 by winning both the Bronco Ridge Runner (19 minutes, 35.4 secs) and District 1-4A championship (19:43.2) girls races.

"I felt at that moment, I'm going to have a lot more races like this. That just boosted my confidence for this coming season," Ramone said. "To finish off (2018) like that was a big accomplishment for me. I felt great about it. (Shiprock's) one of the courses I dislike, but I pushed through it. I had a tough season, so I wanted to finish off the season great."

After an up-and-down start to 2018, which stemmed from an upper shin injury playing summer league basketball, Ramone had a newfound strength and resolve as the season drew to a close.

She ran a bit more conservatively at first, but she developed a stronger sense of when to give herself the green light during the final stretch after training with Kashon Harrison and the rest of the boys team.

By mid-race in each of those final two events, Ramone made that big push internally to get ahead of the pack.

"My time was slow (at the start of the season) because of my injuries and stuff. At the end of the season, I was back to myself," Ramone said. "I'd like to finish stronger (in 2019) than I usually do."

She's now ready to start tapping into her potential in 2019 and beyond.

"Those (last two races) are just indications of better days coming," coach Lenny Esson said. "She now knows that she can run with those top girls. She's got tremendous speed. If you know you have it, it's to your advantage."

Matt Hollinshead covers sports for the Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577 and on Twitter at @MattH_717.

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