Some cross country teams went to Saturday’s 19th annual Ojo Rojo meet looking to give their top runners a bit of a breather. Others wanted to fortify their lineups before the season really gets busy.
Then there were the boys and girls teams from Tempe Corona del Sol and Horizon senior star Jim Walmsley.
The Aztecs wanted to earn some respect; Walmsley wanted to earn a course record. Consider it mission accomplished on both counts.
Both Aztec teams earned team championships in the 30-team field and Walmsley turned in the meet’s — and perhaps the season’s — most impressive performance.
Walmsley won the boys 2.9-mile race in 14 minutes, 57 seconds. Horizon teammate Ben Jankunas finished second, 31 seconds later at 15:28.
“He was pretty impressive,” Horizon boys coach Michael Gleason said. “We wanted to challenge him.”
According to meet director Dave Shapiro, there is not an official meet record since the course is changed every couple of years. But Gleason and Walmsley said they had not heard of anyone running a sub-15 minute race, and Shapiro agreed it was most likely a record.
“I came here wanting to win first, but mostly I wanted to run under 15 (minutes). It was really hot and it got humid by the cows and cornfields,” said Walmsley, who was actually trailing through the first half-mile.
“I tried to push as much as I could.”
But maybe not as happy as the Aztecs.
The Corona boys team finished with 104 points to tie fellow Central Region rival Phoenix Desert Vista.
The Aztecs were named the winners based on the finish of their No. 6 runner.
Hopi came in third with 108 points and Gilbert Highland (130) and Mesa Red Mountain (154) completed the top five.
“I think the guys wanted to get some confidence and make some people notice them,” Corona boys coach Jon Drury said.
“We ran better than last week. The guys will like taking a trophy home.”
Taylor Peak led the Corona boys with an eighth-place finish in 15:56. The other four Aztec runners factored into the scoring as all placed in the top 30. In the girls race, Corona, which did not have an individual place in the top 15, won the title with 106 points. Like the boys race, it was a Central Region showdown as Chandler Basha High School placed second (151) and region rival Phoenix Mountain Pointe placed fourth (171). Red Mountain was third (also at 171), and Ironwood Ridge (178) finished fifth.
In the girls race, Mountain Pointe senior Aubri Carmen, who won last week’s Chandler Invite on the same course, did not compete. So fellow Pride runner Natasa Vulic stepped in and won the individual title in 17:49.
“I wanted to see if I could win,” said Vulic, who placed second a week ago.
“I’ve been working on starting the race faster. I felt good, but I still have to work on finishing stronger.”