Dave Montgomery's Highland boys cross country teams have always carried strong reputation.
In nearly 15 years as coach of the Hawks, Montgomery has built one of the premier cross country programs in the state. On Saturday at Cave Creek Golf Course, Montgomery's team finally took that next step.
The Hawks had five finishers in the top 31, led by third-place finisher David Graham, and won the first cross country state championship in school history, claiming the Division I title with 81 points, well ahead of runner-up Desert Vista's 123. Mountain View was third with 143 and Brophy fourth with 189.
"We've been bringing it the last five weeks, but those boys wanted it today," said Montgomery, whose closest call came in 1998 when Highland finished second behind Horizon. "But there are no guarantees. You only have to run fast one day and that was today. They came to do business and I'm so proud of this team."
Not surprisingly, Yuma Cibola's Bernie Montoya won the individual race for the second year in a row, finishing in 15 minutes, 47.74 seconds on a re-configured state meet course. Friday night's rains in the Valley forced race organizers to make some course changes on Saturday morning, but the course length remained the same 3.1 miles.
http://www.eastvalleytribune.com/photos/collection_302c5e92-07f5-11e1-a219-001cc4c002e0.html" target="_blank">Click here for a photo slideshow of the Division I cross country state championships
The individual runner-up was Tucson Rincon's Ryan Silva, followed to the line by Graham (with a time of 16:00.06), one of four Highland seniors to close his high school career with a championship.
"This means a lot because we've been working hard all off-season, all summer to get ready for this," said Graham. "People were like, ‘This Highland team, they are not even going to place in state.' So we wanted to go out and prove everyone wrong. Everything is so special to us because we did it together."
Logan Woolf was the second Highland runner in 11th place at 16:19.39, Manuel Aguilar was 18th, Weston Jones 29th and Alex Fabiano 31st.
Desert Vista was led by Carter Macey, who was seventh in 16:11.82 and Ryan Dykstra's 13th place finish of 16:23.
Mountain View's Dallin Gherkins (16:18.26) and Brandon Wheat (16:19.04) finished 9th and 10th, respectively, to lead the Toros to their third-place team finish.
"I've been here before, had good teams before, but to come here and beat Desert Vista and beat Mountain View, that says a lot," Montgomery said. "When they got done with (Doug Conley Invitational) and they were all hugging each other, I knew we'd be tough to beat. The way they ran was phenomenal. I don't think they could run any faster."
In the Division I girls race, Xavier dominated with a team score of 22 points, the lowest total for a large-school state champion in Arizona history.
Xavier's Sarah Fakler won her second-straight state title, finishing in 17:48.19. Xavier then had its next six runners finish in the top 15, with Laura Orlie third (18:29.70), Breanna Perrone fourth (18:35.11), Lauren Kinzle seventh (18:51.79) and Samantha Mattice ninth (18:57.88) provided the scoring places for the Gators.
The Desert Vista girls came out of the pack with the runner-up team finish with 81 points. Highland was third with 98, Mountain View fourth with 121 and Chaparral fifth with 181.
Highland senior Tory Haberman was the runner-up to Fakler, clocking a time of 18:14.99.
Desert Ridge's Aliya Sharif had an outstanding fifth-place finish in 18:37.69. She was followed by Desert Vista's top finisher, Jenna Maack, who ran a 18:41.81. The Thunder's Brittany Tretbar was 10th in 19:03.79.
The Hopi boys and girls each claimed team championships, the boys scoring 51 points and the girls 39 points.
Northland Prep was the boys runner-up with 91 points and Pusch Ridge Christian was the girls runner-up with 78 points.
Pusch Ridge Christian junior Sarah MacDonald won the girls race in 18:55.28, well ahead of runner up Mikaela Martin of Horizon Honors, who finished in 19:54.17.
The top East Valley finisher was Tempe Prep's Caleb Peckham, who was 19th in 17:44.61.
Other East Valley top 25 finishers were Scottsdale Prep's Madison Babione, who was 18th in 21:16.22 and Tempe Prep's Lindsey Macias, who was 25th in 21:42.52 St. Augustine Catholic's Nico Montanez was the individual boys champion in 16:16.97.