(Original publication: October 11, 2007)

She partly made her name there, on the hallowed gravel of Van Cortlandt Park. Suffern's Shelby Greany has inched up the ranks each year in a race that gathers many of the top runners and teams in the Northeast.

The Girls Eastern States Championships race Saturday at the Manhattan College Invitational is one of the biggest stages any of the girls will run on this season. Last year Greany finished third, in 14 minutes, 18 seconds (fastest in Rockland history), just 3.4 seconds behind the winner. She finished seventh two years ago and 14th in 2004.

It's different because you don't really have anything to lose, Greany said. At states you have a state title to lose. At Foot Locker (nationals) you have an all-American spot to lose. Here, you can just go for it and if you lose, you lose.

This will be the first time Greany has been challenged this season. She will face Hannah Davidson of Saratoga Springs, last year's winner. The two will likely duel for the Class AA state title this season as well.

Hannah goes out fast, Greany said. I just want to cover her moves and hang in there.

On the 2.5-mile course, athletes are constantly cranking harder and harder, which makes the final straightaway a sprint of survival.

The last 800 meters is probably the most painful 800 meters in any race ever, she said.

The race is scheduled for 2:37 p.m. There are 14 boys and girls varsity races and 408 schools registered. Van Cortlandt Park isn't the most spectator-friendly course but people will flood the last half-mile of the race as competitors finish. And for Greany, she won't be out front looking like she's on a training run. Not this time.

It's so intense, she said. A lot of the races I run early in the season, I'm kind of out there by myself. But you can't slow down for a second because five girls will go by you. You can't put your head down. You have to keep your head up or you'll lose the girl ahead of you. It's just fast the whole time.

Power rankings: Tappan Zee takes the top spot this week.

1. Tappan Zee: Great showing at Brewster without one of its best runners.

2. Suffern: Still undefeated but showed some weakness at Brewster but could regain their position.

3. North Rockland: Is still a contender in a tight race up front.

4. Pearl River: A young team that's been developing with some solid races.

5. Albertus Magnus: Fielded an incomplete team at the St. Anthony's Invitational. Strong race by Jackie McGowan, though.

Staff writer Christopher Hunt writes a weekly girls cross country notebook. Reach him at cchunt@lohud.com or 914-694-3531.