(Original publication: December 9, 2007)

Almost every elite athlete says competing against the best is the pinnacle of competition.

Suffern's Shelby Greany, a cross country standout and The Journal News Rockland athlete of the fall season, is no different.

For the third time in her varsity career, Greany ran in the Foot Locker Cross Country Championship National Finals yesterday in San Diego, where she was pitted against the other top high school runners in the United States.

The junior placed 24th, clocking in at 18 minutes, 25 seconds over the 5-kilometer course at Balboa Park. She had finished 19th in the event last year while running a slower time (18:38).

Greany battled illness all season to get back to this point, a goal she had set for herself at the beginning of the season.

Every time I was sick or it was cold, I knew I had to get up and run if I wanted to qualify, Greany said.

Greany did qualify, placing ninth in the Northeast Regional race at Van Cortlandt Park despite coming down with bronchitis not long before.

Taking her various ailments into account, Greany's season was remarkable. She set a Section 1 record at the Manhattan College Invitational and won her fourth consecutive Rockland County title.

But the national finals clearly hold a special meaning for her.

It's such a great experience, she said. It was exciting, standing out on the starting line with some of the best athletes in the country. I have so much respect for everyone here.

Ashley Brasovan, a junior at Wellington High in West Palm Beach, Fla., won yesterday's race in 17:20.