Elissa Mann has spent two years trying to get past the disappointment.
Mann was just a year removed from Monarch High when she found herself competing at the NCAA West track and field preliminaries for the Colorado Buffaloes in 2016. It had been a solid rookie season for Mann, a specialist in the 800-meter run, and she entered the NCAA preliminaries on the heels of a fifth-place finish at the Pac-12 championships with a time of 2 minutes, 5.28 seconds — a personal best at the time.
She wasn't quite able to repeat that mark at the NCAA preliminaries, a shortcoming that remains somewhat haunting. In an event that sends the top 12 finishers into the national championships, Mann placed 13th with a time of 2:06.97. She missed the cut by just .08 seconds.
After redshirting in 2017 due to an injury, Mann finally will get her first taste of the NCAA championships this week as one of six Buffaloes headed for the finals in Eugene, Ore. Mann will compete alongside former Monarch teammate Kaitlyn Benner, one of three CU runners who will race in the 10,000-meter run.
"I think I had a really surprising freshman season overall," Mann said. "To be at the position that I was in at that meet was surprising to me, but you always want to make it. And it was by the slimmest margins. To be injured my sophomore year and not get the opportunity to redeem myself for that and waiting all the way to this race to get that opportunity again, it feels nice."
Mann battled through a stress fracture in her foot last spring but has rebounded impressively this year. She finished fifth once again at the Pac-12 championships with a time of 2:05.23, and Mann was even better at the NCAA West preliminaries last week, placing 10th overall while improving her personal-best to 2:03.96.
"It feels like a very long time in the making. Almost two years leading up to this," said Mann, who was part of three team state cross country championships at Monarch. "I feel like this sport is such a rollercoaster. You can have your best moments and then your best moments and then everything in between. This past year was pretty tough for me. To finally get to where I envisioned myself being two years ago, it feels really good."
Of course, the Monarch influence isn't necessarily anything new to the CU program. Maddie Alm, a 2017 CU graduate and former standout distance runner, also went to Monarch, and the Buffs currently also feature Elissa Mann's twin sister, Karina. However, Benner and Elissa Mann were denied a more thorough Monarch reunion in Eugene when Arizona senior Claire Green was unable to advance out of the NCAA West prelims.
"I think it's good for us, but it's great for Monarch," CU coach Mark Wetmore said. "They can point to Maddie Alm. They can point to Elissa Mann. They can point to Kaitlyn. One of their teammates (Green) is a very accomplished runner down at Arizona. Monarch can be proud of the successes they've had there, but also the fact that their athletes have gone on and raced well and developed well after they've left."
Mann and steeplechaser Val Constien will compete in their preliminary heats on Thursday. That same day also features the Buffs' three 10,000-meter runners — Benner, Makena Morley, and Erin Clark — competing in the event final.