THE high peaks of the European Alps in Northern Italy have been unable to subdue remarkable 15-year-old runner Jade Dowling.
The Brookwater 15-year-old recently returned from Europe, where she represented Australia at the world under-20 mountain racing championships.
"It was hard," Dowling said.
One of the great unknowns was how Dowling would fare at altitude. The race began 2500m above sea level and finished 500m further up.
"I didn't feel it till the very end," she said of the oxygen depleted air.
"We'd been staying up near the finish for four days to get used to it. It helped a little bit."
It wasn't the altitude that had her most concerned as much as the competition and the pressure of representing Australia.
"I was really scared," Dowling admitted. "I just didn't know the competition and how well they would run."
Dowling was competing against girls four years her senior but exceeded her hopes of a midfield finish by crossing in 24th position form 52 competitors.
"I was happy with that," she said.
"The first 800m were alright because it wasn't hilly - just like cross country.
"The first hill it was getting harder and the last hill was hard."
By that last hill Dowling had long ceased worrying about where she would finish. "I was just trying to get to the end," she said.
That she did in a more than respectable position has whet her appetite for next year's event in Poland.
Many from this year's race, including the winner, will be too old to compete again in under 20s next year.
"I think I was third of the people my age," Dowling said. "It gives me more hope I could do better next year."
In the meantime, she hopes to make the national titles on the track in March, where her focus is over 800m and 1500m.