It took only a few seconds after last year's state cross country championship for the incentive to build.
After he finished seventh a year ago, Saguaro's Jake Wynn briefly huddled with coach John Prather and then began an arduous training program. Taking a page from his sister's long-distance book, Wynn began preparation and pronounced himself ready for the individual battles that constitutes a state championship event.
Running shoulder-to-shoulder with Tucson Sabino's Tyler Stamp to the finish line, Wynn kicked into high gear, and pulled ahead with 100 meters to go. That resulted in a time of 15:39.59, ahead of Stamp's 15:44.35 and good enough for the boys Division III cross country title.
"I left everything on the course," the junior Wynn said afterward. "I'm drained. I've been training since June for this and this feels good."
Prather quickly corrected his state champ on the month in question, and said the planning, strategy and execution began just after last year's placement. This time, Wynn went back to the drawing board, and drew strength from his sister Loren, who runs the half-marathon for BYU.
Because of heavy rain Friday night, the course was altered to avoid deep pockets of water and the start was delayed one hour. That did not appear to bother the Sabercat junior, and Wynn raced out to challenge Stamp.
In the end, the extra kick of energy and adrenalin provided the needed lift.
"We ran the exact race we wanted to run," Prather added. "We waited patiently and then made our move. This is a credit to Jake and how bad he wanted this."
After last year's finish, subsequent training consisted of miles, miles and miles of punishing training, but, in the end, Wynn walked away with a broad smile on his face and hardware in his hand.
The Sabercats team of junior Will Gilbreath (17:13.48), senior Danny Kimball (17:31.08), junior Hayden Cullins (19:10.54), senior Damian Mitchell (16:50.75), sophomore Fox Stone (17:25.29), and senior Jacob Rubow (17:46.44) finished fourth in team standings with 100 points. Chine took team honors with 72 points.
In the girls' Division III championship, the Tempe duo of junior Diana Garcia and senior Leticia Shaban finished second and third individually, respectively, as the Buffalos placed fourth in team competition with 121 points. The Chinle girls capture team competition with 72 points.
From the start, the pair of Garcia and Shaban took immediate notice of their competition. That would mean Chinle senior Rolonda Jumbo, a three-time state champion. Not that a fourth state crown was conceited, but Jumbo still managed to blow away the competition.
Jumbo's winning time of 18:27.20 was ahead of Garcia (19:12.60), and Shaban's time of 19:25.29.
Though the winning margin over Garcia was nearly a minute ahead, the Tempe twins were not intimidated.
"We tried to stay with (Jumbo) but we were more focused on our team result," Garcia said. "We knew (Jumbo) would likely win, and so we looked at other things."
Shaban also echoed that sentiment afterwards.
Just behind the winner, Buffalos' coach Eric Smith put the state title race in perspective. With Jumbo as the favorite, the rest of the field was clearly challenged by her past feats and a highly competitive pace she would set.
"What we accomplished was great for the program," Smith said. "To place two runners in the top three was terrific. I'm really proud of this group, and yes, we're okay."
McClintock senior Eduardo Koa captured the boys Division II state title with a time of 16:03.41.
Koa edged Chris Lessard of Maricopa, who ran 16:17.25, and ahead of Prescott's Hayden Palmer (16:26.77).
Roa's effort helped the Chargers (251 team points) to a seventh-place team finish behind Tucson Canyon del Oro (95 points).
Among those competiting for the Chargers were senior Cole Gonzales (17:24.78), senior Steven Gonzalez (17:46.60), sophomore Kash Filburn (17:51.55), junior Angelo Nevarez (18:18.82), senior Andres Estrada (18:35.46), and junior Hector Noejera (20:42.53).