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Brian Nicholson, Deseret News
Andrea Cowan and Lindsay Johansen cross the finish line at the Deseret News 10K women's race in Salt Lake City Tuesday , July 24, 2012. (Brian Nicholson, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Four months ago, Kassi Harmon was having a baby. Tuesday, she was winning the Deseret News women's 10K.

"It's been three months of training," said Harmon, after crossing the finish line at Liberty Park with a personal-best time of 32:51.3.

The former BYU runner and NCAA champion in the Steeplechase placed fourth in the 2011 Deseret News 10K, and her goal this time was to improve on that finish.

"I've ran this a few times before and I've never placed in the top three, so that was my goal — top three this year," said Harmon, a 29-year-old who finished with an overall pace of 5:17 minutes per mile.

She then added that one of the greatest challenges of the race is the varying inclines.

"This course is really tough because you have so much decline for the first half of the race, that you really get beat up. That's why that last mile is always my slowest, by then, you're just hanging on.

"I knew I had to get out hard the first three miles, and I did. I surprisingly felt strong until the last mile. That's when the pace went way down, and I just thought 'If I have a good enough lead, I can hold them off.'"

Harmon spent the first two miles in second place before taking over the top spot.

"I was chasing Natalie (Shields) from East (High School) down," she said. "She's a strong runner, and I knew if I could catch her, no one may beat her so I tried to just hold her off."

Shields, a recent East High graduate, had her own ambitions for the race.

"I came out with a goal to place in the top with the women this year, rather than just in the top of my age group."

The 18-year-old met her goal, crossing moments behind Harmon with a time of 33:35.6.

"It was challenging," Shields said of staying ahead of the other female runners. "I've raced with some of the women who were with me and they're really competitive. They're very good racers."

Shields began her running career three years ago as a high school sophomore, competing in cross country and track. She will continue to run in the fall when she joins the BYU cross country and track teams.

"This is my third time racing (the Deseret News 10K), and it's my best race by far. I'm a lot more in shape than when I ran it before."

Another key to reaching her goal was keeping up with the men for as long as she could.

"I started right at the front and I took off with a big group of guys that were just cruising," Shields said. "I made it my goal to try and stick with them and not let people keep passing me. The first woman (Harmon) caught me after mile 2; she gapped me a little and I tried to just follow her and not let any other girl pass me.

"Toward the end I had to kick it really hard because I knew the whole group of girls was coming. As soon as I finished, I turned around and there was a big group coming. I was really lucky."

Following Shields across the finish line was Melody Jenson, with a time of 34:04.6, Rachel Perkins, who finished in 34:05.5, and Anna Judd, placing fifth with a time of 34:15.8.