Chan XCountry - Korzenowski2

Chanhassen’s Anastasia Korzenowski runs side-by-side with eventual champion Anna Fenske of Farmington in the opening mile.

Anastasia Korzenowski fought to the finish. Tired, the Chanhassen senior set her sights at the one runner in front of her.

Climbing the steep hill 50 yards away from the finish line, Korzenowski showed why she was nicknamed “Nasty” over her six-time state qualifier high school career.

Passing Sophie Whicher of Minnetonka, Korzenowski, fifth at the 2,000-meter mark, placed third in the Class AA State Girls Cross Country Meet Saturday at St. Olaf College in Northfield.

The finish was the best of her career, also a school-record placing.

“I felt really good about my race. Going in my goal was top three, so accomplishing that feels really good,” Korzenowski said. “Having the whole senior mentality, it was really good to have my last race go out with a bang.”

For Chanhassen’s Anita Woodrow, Korzenowski’s coach for all six years, it was what she has come to expect from one of the most decorated athletes in Storm athletics history.

“That nickname, Nasty, is very fitting of her. You watch her, she’s nasty. She’s a competitor, a fighter, whether it’s a race or a practice. She has that natural instinct to let herself go; we follow up after races and she listens and adjusts. She’s one in a million that’s for sure,” Woodrow said.

With Bethany and Megan Hasz of Alexandria now in college, the 2016 state meet was a wide open race. Korzenowski, ranked No. 2, figured to be among the top contenders.

“The girls had a quote, ‘last one, best one.’ Her goal coming into the season was top 10 and after sections I said, ‘I don’t think top 10 is a high enough goal for you.’ We said top five or top three. If you can go after it, go for the win, but we are very pleased with her race, dropping six seconds from last season,” Woodrow said.

“There were about six girls I thought had a good chance. I just figured whoever had it that day would win it,” Korzenowski added.

Eighth grader Anna Fenske, champion at the Victoria Lions Invitational in Chaska in early October, and Farmington teammate Lauren Peterson jumped out to a commanding 13-second lead through the first mile.

Sixteen hundred meters into the race, Fenske, the eventual champion, led Korzenowski by 21 seconds.

“Woodrow and I talked before the race that I’m at my best when I go out more conservatively and use my kick at the end. I thought I’d let them go and see where I was at in the end,” Korzenowski said.

The Chanhassen runner tracked down Whicher over the final 1.2 miles, erasing a 10-second deficit for a time of 18:26.5.

Fenske won the Class AA race in 17:41.5 followed by Peterson in 18:17.1.

Korzenowski, who tied the state record with six qualifications in a racing career that started as a seventh grader in 2011, posted her fourth all-state time.

She was 13th as a sophomore and 15th as an eighth grader and 17th in her junior campaign in a time of 18:32 in her first 5K state meet.

“It’s been a long six years. It’s been a really crazy experience. When I joined a seventh grader I never expected to be where I was. I always wondered if I peaked too early, so to be six years in, still improving, it’s very exciting,” Korzenowski said.

Crossing the finish line one last time, there was a wide range of emotion for the future University of Minnesota Gopher.

“I’m not going to lie, I cried today. Even though I’ll have more running next year in college, it’s hard to say goodbye to this season and this program,” said Korzenowski, who won six of eight races this season.

“With a seventh or eighth grader coming into a program, you’re nervous as a coach to not break them with all of the miles and all of the training. It says a lot about her, that over six years she was able to continue to progress and get better each year,” Woodrow said.