With its top seven runners together for the first time all season due to injury, illness and other troubles, the Desert Vista boys showed the rest of the state just how good they could be.
Led by individual champion Garrett Kelly, the Thunder placed all five of their scoring runners in the top 18 and easily won the 5A Division I state cross country championships with 56 points Saturday at Cave Creek Golf Course in Phoenix.
"We ran to our potential. First time all year," Kelly said after finishing the 3.1-mile course in 16 minutes, 20 seconds. "It feels amazing. Last two years, we’ve been so close to a championship."
It is Desert Vista’s second state title (2002) and comes on the heels of a runner-up finish in 2004. The 56 points was the lowest for a meet winner since 1992.
Trailing the Thunder was Tucson Salpointe with 159, Sierra Vista Buena 160 and Mountain View 166.
Kelly’s title came in the same week that the senior committed to Arizona State and was a fitting end to a career that didn’t start out all that well.
"He’s a 180 (degree change) from his freshman year to his senior year," Desert Vista coach Chris Hanson said. "He thought a little more about Garrett his freshman year. But by the time he came in for his senior year, he became the leader we needed. He put the team first."
Matt Swift-Kraemer finished ninth in 17:11.45 for the Thunder, who also got strong races from Matt Boughton (13th), Blake Gibson (15th) and Sean Rutledge (18th).
"I am as surprised as everyone else. I did not expect that," Hanson said. "We talked all week about stepping up. We went through so much adversity throughout the season that I think it just prepared us for today."
Salpointe’s Bryce Livingston was second in 16:38.50, followed by Buena’s Scott Mayberry (17:00.85), Horizon’s Andrew Price (17:03.55) and Dobson’s Mike Rodriguez (17:04.20).