As she turned the final corner of the 800-meter run with the desert sun sweltering and the Western Slope wind whipping, Central High School junior Tristian Spence found herself in a position she’s rarely been this season: trailing.

One step behind Durango’s Angela McManus, Spence found her second wind for the final 100 meters, making every stride count to win the Southwestern League championship at Stocker Stadium.

“I just saw the finish line coming up and I was like, ‘I can’t lose,’ ” Spence said. “So I surged past them and just held on to make sure I had enough kick left.”

Spence finished the race in 2 minutes, 23.6 seconds, winning a league title on the first day of the Southwestern League and Western Slope League Championships on Thursday. McManus took second (2:24.01).

Many track and field runners cite the 800 as the most difficult race, as anything shorter can be finished in one high-energy burst and anything longer provides enough time to establish a pace. A strategy to run the 800, on the other hand, is more difficult to plan.

Instead, Spence relied purely on her drive to pull ahead in the end.

“It’s just about having that urge,” Spence said. “I don’t want to get beat. I don’t want them to catch me or anything. Suck it up and go faster!”

Fruita Monument graduate Elaina Arcand (2:24.09) placed third and teammate Ella Unrein (2:24.11), a freshman, was fourth.

“The first lap felt really good,” Arcand said. “Always, the last 200 (meters) start to hurt. I feel like I had a pretty good kick, but so did everyone else. It was really fun to run with all the other runners.”

The SWL boys 800 race also came down to the wire, as Fruita graduate McGinley Zastrow (1:59.75) edged Tyler Stogsdill (2:00.78) at the finish line for the win.

Zastrow was hoping for a personal record in the event, but because of the competitive nature of the race and his starting position, he had to settle for being a league champion.

“I knew I needed to take it out quick because I wanted to get a PR, but today wasn’t the day for that,” Zastrow said. “I knew I was going to be out in front, and I wasn’t looking forward to taking everyone down the back stretch because they were just going to be drifting off of me. I knew that was how it would have to go, with a kick to finish it out.”

Palisade’s Alexis Chelle placed second in the Class 4A WSL girls 800 race, finishing in 2:21.44, just under three seconds behind Eagle Valley’s Samantha Blair.

Having graduated, Chelle is hoping to make the most out of her final days of being a prep athlete.

“I think my key this season is honestly being consistent and remembering that this is my last season of high school track,” Chelle said. “I’m going to leave it all on the track.”

In other final events, Fruita’s Jadyn Heil won the girls SWL 3,200 in 11:20.34, more than 25 seconds ahead of second-place Willow Lott of Durango. In the boys 1A/2A WSL 3,200, Paonia’s Alyster Birk (11.18.7) and Grand Valley’s Keaton Jansen (11:35.24) placed first and second, respectively.

Finals for the rest of the events will take place today starting at 8 a.m.