West Springfield senior Caroline Alcorta crosses the finish line at the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships in San Diego. (Photo by Bruce Wodder/PhotoRun.net for Foot Locker Cross Country)

Caroline Alcorta’s stellar cross-country career culminated Saturday in a third-place finish at one of the nation’s premier races.

At the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships in San Diego, the West Springfield runner finished in 17 minutes 31 seconds on a challenging course which, she said, “hurt a lot.”

Throughout the race, Alcorta said she stayed with the front pack with two other girls, one from Pennsylvania and the other from Connecticut. Running in 70-degree weather, Alcorta’s strategy was to keep herself in the front to best position herself for a high finish.

“It was pretty hilly, a lot of inclines,” Alcorta said in a phone interview. “There’s a monster hill that it’s known for. You have to run it twice.”

Alcorta added that she was a bit surprised to get out to an early lead in the race.

“It was a rush of adrenaline,” she said. “I knew I could stay with them.”

Also running from the D.C. area were Lake Braddock teammates Katy Kunc and Hannah Christen. Kunc finished 19th and Christen placed 21st, though both runners posted times of 18:08.

“Last year was my first year so I didn’t expect to come to a meet this big,” Kunc said. “Earlier this season I started training a lot harder. I wanted to be the best I could be.”

Christen said she wanted to conserve some energy early but ran out a little too hard. She was able to catch up with Kunc at the end.

“Unfortunately I went out too fast and died a little bit,” Christen said. “But it was a good last race for my high school cross-country career.”

St. Albans runner Tai Dinger ran a 15:51 and finished 27th in a tightly contested boys’ championship race. His time was the best of the three D.C. area runners competing.

“My coach [Jim Ehrenhaft] did a great job,” Dinger said. “He knew I wanted to peak at this race, and I ran really well at Foot Locker [Northeast] regional. I really think I ran well.”

Edison’s Louis Colson placed 32nd with a 15:59 and Marshall’s Mackenzie Haight finished 34th with a time of 16:07.

Both Colson and Haight said a lot of jostling took place, which prevented them from getting into a rhythm on the course. Looking back, Colson said he should have tried to break away from the pack early on to avoid the contact.

“The pace wasn’t that fast. I could’ve gotten in front,” Colson said. “I can’t complain about anything. I’m going to keep doing the right things and look forward to the indoor season.”

Haight said it was a physical race that provided some good experience for future events.

“I felt like you were in a fight with everyone on the course most of the time,” Haight said “It was almost who could be the last guy standing.”

For the runners that participated in the Foot Locker national race, they’ll get some time to recharge before joining their respective teams for the remainder of the indoor track season.

“I’m excited to relax, excited not to run,” Alcorta said.