Katherine Berube couldn't pick just one moment.
Maybe it was the feeling that something needed to change after running JV at Edina High for so long.
Or maybe it was during that half marathon after the season last year.
It could have been those life-changing habits she started to make.
Or maybe it came during that daily six-mile run, when she would cross 50th street in Minneapolis, among the rushing traffic and pedestrians, then make the turn on to the trail near Lake Harriet.
If she had to guess, Berube's commitment to running (fast) began during one of those times, though she couldn't be sure. All Berube knows now, after one of the most drastic and remarkable improvements any athlete across the nation has made year-over-year, is that she's right where she dreamed all along, finishing up her cross country career at Nike Cross Nationals in Portland, Oregon.
"It's really hard to wrap your head around it," said Edina coach Matt Gabrielson, who's coached Berube for the past six seasons.
Heading into NXN on December 2, the Edina girls cross country team, which qualified for the meet for the third straight season and is following an 11th-place performance in 2016, is about as healthy as it's been all fall.
And Berube, which entered the season on JV and goes by the nickname "Kitty," will be a key piece if the program aims to finish among the top-10 teams.
It's kind of crazy, but Berube has cut nearly nine minutes off her PB from a season ago. On Sunday, she finished as Edina's No. 2 runner and 31st overall at the NXR Heartland Region in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
"She clearly has talent that was never manifested," Gabrielson said. "This year she just decided she wanted to be really good."
Perhaps that race was the most important, though. Berube couldn't hold her emotions in check after the NXR Heartland, letting emotion run through her after realizing a long held goal to run at a national meet.
In five consecutive meets since September 23 at the Roy Griak Invitational, the senior has consecutively dropped tremendous amounts of time -- and only seems to be getting better.
She started the season on JV. And only until an eye-opening performance in a 2-mile race in August, where Berube won in 12:14.40, did it spur Gabrielson to put her on the varsity squad.
She ran in two consecutive varsity meets, including one in Iowa with great competition -- it was there where she "went out" in the first mile with defending Class AA champion Anna Fenske -- and another in Minnesota, breaking 20 minutes twice.
Then came the Roy Griak Invitational, a national-level meet at the University of Minnesota
"I remember telling her, 'How do you feel about running in the varsity race?'" Gabrielson recalled. "And I remember her saying she was ready to faint because she was so nervous."
"I was second-guessing myself," Berube said. "I was wondering what would happen if I drank too much coffee."
But Berube overcame those nerves and ran a solid race despite hot and humid conditions in Minneapolis, finishing in 46th place overall and third for Edina in 20:18:10.
That was her validation.
"After Griak, I moved her up in a training group," Gabrielson said. "She stayed there."
Now, it's no simple matter to make varsity at Edina, which has over 100 girls on its squad. Gabrielson, a former professional with Team USA Minnesota, tailors multiple levels of training groups with the program, some with higher volume and intensity in comparison to others. The school's cross country foundation is strong, and to make varsity is a high honor.
Berube's work rate in the summer, however, did much to prepare her for the season. After her junior JV campaign, where she sometimes decided "not to show up for meets," according to Gabrielson, she ran the Lake Minnetonka Half Marathon, finishing in 1:50.32.
Then those life choices came, she said: "I changed my mindset about everything."
That included better eating habits, more sleep, and an investment in yoga. She ran 68 miles in June, then followed with 196 miles in July. She averaged about 35 miles a week from then on, building enough aerobic fitness to hold her through the start of the cross country season.
"We have a belief that there's two or three types of distance runners," Gabrielson said. "You have the ones who are really fast and have a lot of speed, those 800m runners who can hold on for XC. Then you have the middle-distance, who can run max VO2 for a long time. And then you have the distance divas, the ones who can go out and run forever, those marathon runners.
"I think that's definitely Kitty Berube."
After Griak, Berube continued to flourish, posting a 12th-place effort at the Lake Conference Championships in 19:41.26, then a PB at the Section 6AA Championships, going 19:11.40.
Two weeks of lead time into state gave Berube all the preparation she needed. The senior crushed a career best time of 18:49.70, finishing 23rd overall.
Over that nearly month and a half period, Berube said, she went from a runner who would burst out of the gate like a greyhound to a more composed athlete who learned "pacing was a good thing."
"She's reaping the benefits now," Gabrielson said.
Heartland wasn't so much of a surprise then, even though that 18:11.33 is now starting to open the eyes of college coaches.
Berube has high hopes of running at the next level.
Gabrielson isn't sure where the senior may land, but he knows if she keeps improving and remains consistent, she could run at any level, including Division II Minnesota State University, Mankato, or maybe even "The U" -- the University of Minnesota.
The spring will be important. Berube has yet to run the varsity level there, either.
"This season will definitely be better than last season," she said.
Just the other day, Berube ran a 10-mile run with the Edina girls, the rhythm steadily picking up near the end to sub-7 minute pace.
Berube felt just fine. So good, in fact, that she said she could have gone on for much longer.
But first, she'll head to Portland with Edina for her first, and last, experience at NXN.
With the season already a success, Berube's goals are in check. She wants to help her team, of course. But she also wants to challenge herself, like she's done all season.
"If I pace myself and stick with the girls I've run with in the past, I'll be fine," she said. "I know the course is tough, but I'm going to look to break 20 again."
Contact MileSplit National Producer Cory Mull at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet @bycorymull