Rodriguez, Jones represent AZ well at XC Regionals

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                </div>Nathan Rodriguez has been used to winning the high school cross country events he entered this year.  The senior at Corona del Sol High School in Tempe ran undefeated and […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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Nathan Rodriguez has been used to winning the high school cross country events he entered this year.  The senior at Corona del Sol High School in Tempe ran undefeated and went on to win the Division I state individual title and played a major role in Corona winning the state team title.

Danielle (Dani) Jones also won every major event she entered this year, running for Desert Vista High School in Phoenix, and capped off her junior season as the Division I individual champion; Desert Vista also won the state team title.

Last week, Rodriguez was named the Arizona Republic Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year and Jones took the ROY honors on the girls’ side.

Their next stop was the Southwest Regionals, where they would compete with some of the best runners from five states to earn the right to move on to nationals.

This year, the regionals were run on one of the rainiest weekends of the year in Arizona, so the participants had an additional challenge to deal with as they covered the soggy course at Toka Sticks Golf Course in Gilbert.  A crew of about 40 volunteers set up the course on Friday as heavy rain fell, and the runners braved the elements to walk the course at mid-afternoon to familiarize themselves with the terrain.

But the races got off Saturday morning with the Citizens 5K Race and, just before 11 o’clock, the boys championship race was underway, followed by the girls’ championship race.  Jones finished her event in a time of 17:48.21, good enough for fourth place, while Rodriguez came in 11th on the boys’ side with a time of 15:44.59.

Rodriguez led his Corona del Sol teammates to a sixth-place team finish, while Jones’ Desert Vista team (running as the Thunder Running Club) also finished sixth.  Rodriguez was joined by the same group that took the school to an undefeated regular season: Ryan Normand, Marcus Wheeler, Patrick Cullings, Blake Fischer, Slade Sumners, and Andrew Trusswell.  The Desert Vista team includes Baylee Jones, Madi Bucci, Amanda Davis, Sabrino Camino, and Emily Smith.

Baylee Jones is the younger sister of Dani and was often not far off the pace behind her sister at the regular-season events; she finished runner-up to Dani at the state championships.  The freshman again was the second Desert Vista runner across the finish line, coming in 18th at the regionals with a time of 18:32.50.

The strong showings for both Corona del Sol and Desert Vista closed out what has been a dream season for both schools.  The Aztecs, in addition to running undefeated, won just their second boys’ cross country title – the last was 21 years ago.  The Thunder girls beat perennial cross country power Xavier Prep for the team title, breaking a six-year reign by the Phoenix Catholic school.

(Photo: Margot Kelly)