Billy Orman came down from the hills over the weekend to jump into the Desert Twilight Cross Country Invitational, which is hosted by Queen Creek High School and run on a Gilbert golf course.
Orman, a senior this year at Tuba City High School, was missing from the fields of the Soles Sports Running Zone Festival and the George Young Invitational, both run in Scottsdale last month.
But he wasn’t just sitting around, taking it easy. He was up in the high country, winning races. He won the Peaks Invitational in Flagstaff in early September and then moved over to Page later in the month to capture the title in the Page Cross Country Invitational.
He continued right on winning last Friday, finishing the Twilight in a time of 14:51.10 to capture the boys’ sweepstakes race title. Alejandro Montano, a senior from Catalina Magnet HS came in second in a time of 15:14.60, and third place went to Alejandro Valencia from Rio Rico HS in 15:22.60. Will Firth, the Brophy Prep senior who won the George Young Invite, finished fourth in a time of 15:30.
Big things were expected from Orman in his senior year, and he is living up to those expectations so far. He was last year’s 3A state cross country champion and also won state titles during the track & field season, in both the 1,600m and the 3,200m.
The same can be said about Sarah Fakler, who won the girls sweepstakes race at the Twilight, finishing in a fast time of 17:47.
Fakler is just a sophomore at Xavier Prep in Phoenix, but she established herself as a legitimate contender last year, finishing runner-up for the 2009 state cross country title in 5A-I. She had the misfortune of running behind teammate Jessica Tonn throughout her first year of high school competition. Tonn won just about every race the two entered, but has moved on to her college career at Stanford and positioned Fakler for huge success this year.
And Fakler has stepped comfortably into Tonn’s spike prints. She has already won the Solo Sports event and the George Young Invitational. Her time in the George Young, one of the more competitive and prestigious events during the year, is exactly the same time she recorded for the Twilight, 17:47.
Second place in the girls’ sweepstakes race at the Twilight went to Rolanda Jumbo from Chinle HS, who was out front early and stayed with Fakler until late in the race. She finished closely behind the Xavier runner, clocking in at 17:57. Acoleone Bristow of Rio Rico HS came in third with a time of 18:14.
Breanna Perrone, a Fakler teammate at Xavier, was a sixth-place finisher at the George Young and moved up to fourth at the Twilight, finishing in a personal best time of 18:34.10.
There were five Xavier runners finishing in the top 25, which helped the Gators win the team event with 50 points. Daylee Burr came in 10th (19:00), followed by McKenna Gaffney in 12th (19:06.6), and Julianne Vice in 23rd place (19:26.6).
Desert Vista HS in Phoenix totaled 109 points to take second place, followed by Highland HS in Gilbert, with 144 points.
On the boys’ side, Alhambra HS in Phoenix continued their winning ways after topping the field at the George Young Invite. The Lions posted a combined time of 1:20.55 for 143 points to win the Twilight over second-place Mountain View HS of Mesa – which won the Twilight last year. Desert Vista HS came in third with 196 points.
Three Alhambra runners finished in the top 30: Jorge Martinez in 5th place (15:36), Ignacio Villalba in 13th (15:52.5), and Max Talamantes in 26th (16:15.1). Jesus Bustillos and George Ramirez finished 49th and 50th, respectively.
This was the fourth year since this mid-season meet was added, and already the field includes 72 high school teams from around the state.
It was Orman’s last Twilight, but Fakler will be around for a couple more years. That’s not something the rest of the runners want to think about.
Also, consider this. Jessica Tonn ran cross country undefeated her junior and senior years.
Fakler is just getting started down that same road.