Alhambra, Xavier continue winning cross country titles

Katie Penney didn’t win this year’s Division I cross country state championship.  Her teammate, Sarah Fakler, took care of that.

But Penney, a senior at Xavier Prep in Phoenix, enjoyed another distinction that was almost as rewarding.  When the Gators took the team title for the fourth consecutive year, it was also her fourth straight year on a championship team.

Four-for-four.  Not many runners get that kind of opportunity in a high school career.

Penney finished eighth in Saturday’s Division I state meet with a time of 19:17, considerably behind Fakler’s 18:26.  But, then, most of the field was well back of the Xavier sophomore, who got off  to her usual fast start and kept the lead the rest of the way.

The next runner across the line was almost 38 seconds behind Fakler.  Monica Houston from Cibola High School in Yuma took second-place honors with a time of 19:04.  Third place went to Brittany Tretbar from Desert Vista HS in Phoenix, who clocked in at 19:05.

Xavier has continued its dominance in distance running behind Fakler, who hasn’t lost an Arizona meet this year.  But it wasn’t unexpected since the Gators returned five runners from last year’s championship squad and all seven of this year’s competitors placed in the top 15 on Saturday.

Breanna Perrone led the four Xavier runners who made the top 10, with a sixth-place finish (19:12), followed by Penney,  and Daylee Burr in 10th (19:36).

Xavier had a team total of 37 points, well ahead of second-place Desert Vista’s 94 and third-place  Mountain View HS of Mesa with 106.

But the big surprise at this year’s state meet came on the boys’ side.  Bernie Montoya from Cibola HS in Yuma won a sectional last week, but still wasn’t expected to take the title away from Will Firth from Brophy Prep in Phoenix or Jorge Martinez from Alhambra HS, the favorites going in.

Martinez is the two-time defending 5A-I state champion and Firth has been burning up the course all season, winning the prestigious Doug Conley Invitational and just about every other invitational he has entered this season.

Montoya, a sophomore, had to come from behind to overtake Firth to win the title in the final 200 meters.  He finished in a time of 15:38, with Firth settling for a second-place finish in 15:54.

Alhambra HS in Phoenix placed two runners in the top 10 to help the Lions wrap up the Division I team title, the school’s third big-school championship in the last four years. Martinez took third in 16:03 and Ignacio Villalba came in fifth.

But Alhambra squeezed this one out, as just 15 points separated the top three teams.  Alhambra totaled 102 points, Mountain View (Mesa) finished second with 112, and Desert Vista came in third with 117.

In Division II competition, Kylee Kieser from Marcos de Niza HS in Tempe won the individual girls’ championship in a time of 18:53 and Sunrise Mountain‘s Brandon Kocmund was the boys’ champion, with a time of 16:02.

Catalina Foothills in Tucson took the boys’ team title with 63 points, ahead of Sunrise Mountain in Peoria (118).  The girls’ team title went to Nogales HS with 77 points, and Marcos de Niza finished in second place with 97 points.

(Photo: AZTrackXc)