Xavier’s Fakler picks up second straight Gatorade award

Sarah Fakler picked up her second straight Gatorade Arizona Cross Country Runner of the Year award and Bernie Montoya collected his first – one more time their paths have crossed throughout the 2011 season.

The two have experienced the ups and downs of a competitive season, as they combined to win often… and then lived through their ‘down’ time at the same event.

Fakler, from Xavier Prep in Phoenix, won the girls’ side of the Sole Sports Running Festival in September, while Montoya, from Yuma’s Cibola High School captured the boys’ crown at the Scottsdale event.

Then, in October, they repeated the pattern at the Desert Twilight festival in Mesa.  Each won their respective titles in the annual event hosted by Queen Creek High School.

But in November, they fell off their accustomed pace ahead of the pack and barely made it into the top 10 at the Nike Cross Regionals.  Both got out to great starts, but faded before the race ended. Fakler stumbled just before the finish line and settled for a ninth place, while Montoya dropped to a tenth-place finish.

The body of work that each put together during the regular season was enough to earn the Gatorade award.  And both will be back next year for their senior seasons to try to add another.

Montoya didn’t start cross country competition until his sophomore year at Cibola, preferring to play football instead.  Fakler, however, has been a fixture in the sport since her freshman year when she ran in the shadow of Xavier teammate, Jessica Tonn.  The pair won just about every race they entered that year, with Fakler generally settling for runner-up.

Tonn won the 5A-I cross country title that year and Fakler finished right behind her.  The next two titles belonged exclusively to the diminutive (5’5″) runner, as she won the individual state titles in 2010 and 2011.

When Tonn graduated after the 2009 season, Fakler stepped to the forefront of the sport and has continuing winning in a dominant fashion for the past two years.

Tonn also pocketed two Gatorade Arizona XC Runner of the Year awards while at Xavier – the only other runner at the school to win the award, which recognizes athletic achievement and also takes into account academic achievement and ‘exemplary character’.

Fakler has a chance to go her one better.  But first, she will be focused on defending her state track titles in the 1600- and 3200-meter events.