Marina High School student-athlete Laura Hollander knew she wanted to be a runner in fourth grade. But she didn't know why.
Saturday, almost a decade later, she finally figured it out.
"Running is the one sport that I'm the only person that has control over," she said. "I'm the only one that affects my outcome. You can just go out there and put everything into it and try to do your best."
Laura, 17, took control of her abilities Saturday at the CIF State Cross-Country Championships at Fresno's Woodward Park. She came in second in 17 minutes, 32 seconds in Division 1, which was also good for fifth among the five divisions at state.
Marina's girls' program came in third, which is the highest finish in school history, said girls' Coach Dave Sanford.
"It was a very dedicated group," he said. "We had the talent before …but they came together, were dedicated to their training and were much more intense. The personalities on the team were able to pull it off."
Laura has been invited to compete on the national level at the Nike Cross Nationals in Portland, Ore.
"I know it'll be a tough race," she said. "I can't really worry about anyone. I'm just going to go out there and do the best for me."
Getting to where she is wasn't easy for Laura, who hopes to continue running at the collegiate level. She wasn't always the most fit athlete on the team.
But because she loves running so much, she started to become more aware of her body and lost 40 pounds during the past year and a half by skipping out on junk food, she said.
"If you saw me at a race, you would see that I had extra weight and was hanging out of my uniform," Laura said.
Laura said she's going to do her best, but also enjoy the experience at the national competition.
"I'm just looking forward to the experience," she said. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."