For the second time three seasons, Desert Vista doubled dipped when it came to hoisting the cross country state championship trophy.
Last time it was believed to be the first time it was achieved at the big-school level.
This time came with a first as well as the Thunder girls set a new standard that is nearly mathematically impossible to top.
The Desert Vista girls finished the races in the second through six spots for a combined score of 20 points, besting the previous big-school mark set by Xavier, which scored 22 points in 2011.
“We definitely didn’t have a number in mind,” Desert Vista senior Baylee Jones said. “As a team we’ve been a strong program and after last year (finishing third) I think people thought they could push under the rug. Coming into this race we had some fire in us to get back up there.”
The Thunder, who are ranked as high as No. 3 in the country, easily paced the field as defending champion Chandler was second at 105 and Highland was third at 112. Xavier (142), Sandra Day O’Connor (153) and Mountain View (220) rounded out the top six.
“Our focus from Day One was to be the best we could be this season,” Thunder coach Jeff Messner said. “We never discussed winning the state this year. There is constant evaluation going on and part of the responsibility as a coach.
“I was really pleased with their effort. We need to enjoy it, but keep it in context and move forward with the rest of the (national schedule portion) of the season.”
The Desert Vista boys, which won its third straight title and fourth in five seasons, had a more difficult time.
In fact the Thunder trailed Brophy at the one and two mile markers, but the course at Cave Creek Golf Course is 3.-1 miles long.
The Thunder closed hard to top the Broncos 57- 70 behind five runners in the top 20 including Habtamu Cheney, who finished fourth with a time of 15 minutes and 54 second.
“I ran the race I wanted to,” Cheney said. “The time I ran was what I was looking for. It was right in the range of last year’s champion, but there were just some better runners out there today.”
The Thunder’s Reece Donihi (9th place, 16:14), Chris D’Angelo (12th 16:21), Nick Thatcher (14th, 16:30) and Askel Loudon (18th, 16:33) rounded the scoring for Desert Vista.
While those five are the credited numbers, Thunder coach Chris Hanson knows just how many people contributed to the team title.
“We have 55 kids in our program,” said Hanson, who only had one senior in the lineup. “I expect just as much from that 55th guy that I do of the No. 1. It is about embracing the “We’ mentality and working together to get to this point. I am sure other teams do as well, but I know for sure that is why we can be successful.”
Corona del Sol was the second highest boys finisher as the Aztecs came in third while Mountain View, Highland and Perry rounded out the top six.
“We had a good race,” Corona coach Pat Smith said. “We’ve come a long way to get here with some of these guys. They ran a great race.”
Slade Sumners was eighth and Liam Kovatch was 10, while Lincoln Johnston was 26th and Joel Wadsworth was 32nd as the latter two made huge strides.
“We expected those two (Sumners and Kovatch) to be in the mix for the top 10 because they have been all year, but the runners were wild cards and they really came through with impressive performances.”
The Thunder girls were amazing impressive in setting the big-school record as junior Haley Wolf was second at 18:30, Jones was third at 18:32, Emily Crall was fourth 18:35, Brooklyn Christofis was fifth at 18:38 and Amanda Davis was sixth at 18:39.
Jones finish was a nice rebound after struggling to the finish a year when she unknowingly ran with mononucleosis. She had the lead until the final sprint when her body decided it had enough and essentially shutdown as she finished 19th
“I don’t get a long with this course,” Jones said with laugh. “I was winning up and until I almost died. I just wanted to come back and help my team.”
The Thunder took back the title from Chandler, which was the surprise winner a year ago and had a good season in 2016 but there wasn’t much the Wolves could do to catch Desert Vista.
“We didn’t want to come out and say we had little chance so we played the underdog card,” Chandler coach Matt Lincoln said. “Reality is DV is just that good. We held our own and ran a good race.”
The Wolves were led by Mihajla Milovanovic (13th), Becca Taylor (17th), Morgan Foster (18th) and Gabrielle Enns (20th).
It was pretty clear, however, the day belonged to Desert Vista a year after the program thought it was going to win both a year ago.
“It was a little bit of a shock to us we didn’t do it last year,” Hanson said. “Things happen. Some things are out of your control. As disappointing as that may have been and we tried to move on because we do it call it two teams, one program and we felt as much as the girls, we waited 365 days for this day.”
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