It was a tough fall season for Reno High senior Jordan Cardenas.
Two months ago, Cardenas injured his back and missed a good portion of the cross country schedule.
Despite the overwhelming odds against returning to top-level form, Cardenas saved his best race for last Saturday at the Nevada state cross country championships.
By turning in the best time of the day, Cardenas won the Division I individual championship, with a winning time of 16 minutes, 15.9 seconds.
"I can't believe I turned in this type of effort today," said Cardenas, who has had a family member qualify for the state meet each of the last 12 seasons. "My family told me to go down fighting, so I got out of my depressed state and starting working out again."
And in just his third race coming off the injury, Cardenas is a state champion.
"Its incredible, no question about it," he said. "My number one goal today was just run the best race possible, and let the times take care of themselves."
Cardenas was almost 16 seconds better than second-place finisher Eddie Esquivel from Eldorado.
In the team competition, Centennial unseated defending champion Galena by putting three runners in the top 10. The Grizzlies finished second, with 44 points to Centennial's 27.
Coronado was third, Shadow Ridge was fourth and Douglas was fifth.
In Division III/IV, North Tahoe finished an unbeaten season by taking the title, the 15th in the legendary career of coach Warren Mills.
"This is a great program," said Mills, in his 43rd year of coaching. "These athletes care about cross country, and its a big deal at our school. We have a great situation -- great athletes, great parents and a great school."
Leading the way for North Tahoe was junior Noah McDermott, who won his ninth race of the season in a time of 16:56.8.
"I really wanted to keep the undefeated record intact," said McDermott. "I just did what I've been doing all season, sticking to the gameplan. I just didn't want to let my team down, so I ran a solid race."
Patrick McElravey finished second (17:12.0) for North Tahoe, while Zach Hunt of Excel Christian grabbbed third (17:16.0). North Tahoe's Sean McDermott was sixth (17:42.2) and Peter Holmes was eighth (17:43.9).
Incline finished second in the team competition, 31 points behind North Tahoe.
In the Division 1-A boys competition, South Tahoe senior Connor Henderson overcame a cold to win the inidividual crown. Elko, led by Kyler Simpkins' third-place finish (17:08.8) and Alex Byars' fifth place (17:16.3), took the team crown.
On the girls' side, junior Shelbie Dorsa of Elko won, leading Elko to the team championship. Truckee was second, thanks to Skyler Flora's second-place finish, while South Tahoe was third.
In the Division III/IV race, Incline took the team competition, while North Tahoe sophomore Tara Gallant grabbed the individual title. She crossed in 21:04. Incline freshman Stephanie Holoma was second in 21:20.8. The top six finishers were all underclassmen.
The only division that a Northern Nevada runner didn't win was in the girls' Division I event, as Centennial junior Katie Gorczyca took the individual title. Coronado won the team title, 10 points better than Centennial.