Like Will Ferrell blacking out on his brilliant debate answer in “Old School”, Brophy cross country runner Will Firth doesn’t remember the home stretch of Saturday's Doug Conley Invitational. He just knows it earned him a first place trophy.
Firth beat Valencia by less than five seconds (15:49.24 to 15:53.80), helped give the 5A Division I Brophy boys a third-place team finish behind winner Phoenix Alhambra and second-place Desert Vista at Rolling Hills Golf Course in Tempe.
“Just after the 2-mile mark I made my move,” Firth said. “It wasn’t good enough at that point and (Alejandro Valencia from Rio Rico) passed me again. Then with about 400 (meters) to go, maybe, I just went all out and I don’t even know what happened from there.”
Firth and many of his Broncos teammates were plagued by the flu at the end of last season, putting to bed their high expectations at the state meet. Firth, a senior, made a strong comeback this year, with four invitational wins in five tries. Saturday’s win was a little more special than the others, if only as a testament to his will power.
“It’s really painful at the end,” Firth said as he tried to recall his thoughts going into the final 400 meters. “I’m not even thinking about the race or anything. I had to decide, ‘Do I really want to win’? (Firth and Valencia) were far enough ahead that I could have just dropped back and taken second and it still would have been a nice race. The last half-mile was 'Do I want it?' 'Do I want it?' I had to decide right then if I wanted it or not.”
It wasn’t all guts though.
“I think he is more focused as a senior,” Brophy coach Mike Keahon said. “And I think we had a good plan here which was to stay behind the leader and then the last mile to go. This is great for him, because of all the years he has put in it has finally come to a positive.”
Firth’s teammate Tommy Williams, a track star at the school, finished eighth (16:33.12).
In 5A-I, Desert Vista lost last year to Xavier in the state championship meet. The Thunder won on Saturday, but with Xavier holding out its varsity runners and because they won by such a thin margin over the Gators (76 to 78), it didn’t feel much like a victory.
“To be really honest I am not really pleased,” Desert Vista coach Doug Christofis said. “We came to this meet to make a statement and we didn’t make the statement we wanted to make. We really wanted to come in very strong and not really have anyone come close to us.”
Christofis feels he has a "special group," which means he believes his team has the talent to beat Xavier this year. The Thunder was led by Brittany Tretbar who finished in fifth place in 19:30.51. Teammate Lauren Owens finished eighth with 19:55.05.
Highland High finished third as a team with 125. Highland runner Tory Haberman came in fourth with a time of 19:20.57.
3A-champion Rolonda Jumbo (Chinle), won the girls race with a course-record time of 18 minutes, 34.78 seconds.
Marcos De Niza’s Kylee Kieser came in third with an 18:58.60.