Last year, Emma Kemmerer missed out on the PIAA Team Championships with the Northwestern girls' cross country team because of a late season injury.

The situation sparked an internal fire within Kemmerer, who had spent the majority of her sophomore season as a JV runner.

After earning herself a spot on varsity as a junior, Kemmerer had her heart set on making it to states this time around.

"The stress fracture really pushed me to do better this year because I would have been able to go to states with the girls last season," Kemmerer said. "When that happened, and the fact that I couldn't go with them, it really pushed me to become a better runner.

"My goal at the beginning of the season was to make it to states. So, going into districts, I put all of my heart out there and hoped for the best."

Kemmerer may not have had a dominant regular-season as far as victories are concerned. She was the Tigers' top runner in five of their 10 races this year with her best overall finish being a third a feat that she accomplished twice during the Colonial League season.

But it was the way the Kemmerer peaked at the perfect time that earned her the TIMES NEWS Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year.

"I think what helped me throughout the regular season was training over the off-season," Kemmerer said. "Also, I think all of the races helped motivate me and got me to realize that I could actually do well in the postseason if I put my heart to it."

Kemmerer did just that, as she posted an eighth-place finish in her first-ever run at Colonial League championships. After spending the last few years competing at the Class AA level, the Tigers faced Class AAA competition at the districts championships. She crossed the finish line with a 10th-place finish, but her overall time would have been good enough for a silver medal in the AA meet.

She took it one step further when she finally received the opportunity to take part at this year's PIAA championships.

Kemmerer recorded the area's highest finish for a female runner at states. In her first try at states, she recorded a time of 21:10. She placed 163rd out of 281 runners.

"I was happy with the way I ran in the postseason," Kemmerer said. "I was surprised with myself because I have never run that well before. So, it was a huge shock to me as well as many others."

Northwestern coach Chris Stitzel stated that Kemmerer handled herself very well in her first attempt.

"Of course, of all years, the first year we bump up to AAA and have someone qualify at that level it's a whole new ball game," Stitzel said. "It means a lot with the way she stepped up and handled the pressure. She didn't have a great race at states, but her time was decent.

"Hopefully she will use that to her advantage. With the level of competition at states, hopefully that motivates her even more to work harder this winter and have another good track season. Then she can finish out her senior year with a good showing."

Kemmerer was the Tigers' eighth runner a year ago. Running for a deep team that featured standouts such as 2009 PIAA State champion Lindsay Kerr, Megan Handwerk and Ramzy Burns.

This season, Stitzel was pleased with how Kemmerer was able to emerge quickly out of the shadows of those talented harriers and become one herself.

"I knew she could be pretty good," Stitzel said. "But, to go from really not having a whole lot of varsity experience in big races, to being my number one runner all year, was unreal. She was right on the bubble last year.

"She came back strong. She had a good track season and carried that right through summer workouts straight into this year's cross country season."

Kemmerer shocked herself once more continuing a trend with Northwestern Lady Tiger harriers receiving the annual award handed out by the TIMES NEWS. It is the third year in a row that a female Tiger runner has received the honor. Lindsay Kerr had captured the award the last two years.

"I feel so honored," Kemmerer said. "It feels great because we have had such amazing runners over the past couple of years. So, just to be able to continue that tradition feels great. It made my season even better."