Highland HS sweeps boys, girls titles at Chandler XC Invite

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                </div>  It was an early start to the weekend for the Corona del Sol High School cross country team as they showed up on their Tempe campus yesterday morning to […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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It was an early start to the weekend for the Corona del Sol High School cross country team as they showed up on their Tempe campus yesterday morning to catch the 6:30 bus that would take them on the 15-minute trip to Tumbleweed Park in Chandler to compete in this year’s edition of the Chandler XC Invitational.

But this year there was one notable exception.  Nate Rodriguez didn’t board with the rest of the team.

Rodriguez, who won the boys’ title in his respective age division the last four years running, graduated last year.  He won representing the Aztecs the last three years, and claimed the freshman title while still at Williams Field High School in Gilbert.

Unlike most other cross country invitationals, the Chandler Invite doesn’t follow the traditional format.  The race, which included 38 teams this year, is unique in that it lets runners compete head-to-head with just those in their class… freshmen against other freshmen, sophomores against other sophomores, etc.  The 5K event includes both boys’ and girls’ divisions and scoring is done by taking each school’s top finisher and combining the place in which they finish.

With Rodriguez leading the way, the Corona boys’ team coasted to the 2013 title, far outpacing the rest of the field in point totals with 11 points.  The girls’ team also brought home a first place to sweep the meet honors for the Aztecs.

But the year-long dominance of the boys’ team was due in large part to the fact that the team was loaded with seniors.  They’re all gone now and it’s given another school the opportunity to step into the winner’s circle.

This year, that turned out to be Highland High School from Gilbert, which also won both the boys’ and girls’ titles.

The Hawks have been laying in the weeds, patiently awaiting their turn after their boys’ team finished in third place last year behind Corona and Mesa’s Mountain View High, and the girls were runner-up to Corona.  The girls’ total of 35 points last year were just six off the pace of 29 set by the Aztecs.

This year, both teams bettered their point totals, with the girls improving to 24 points to hold off Corona, which came within one point of repeating as winners with 25 points.  The 33 points the boys accumulated last year to earn third place were also eclipsed with this year’s total of 28 points.

The boys’ race was just as tight as the scoring on the girls’ side, with the Highland boys edging out Mountain View by a single point as the Toros were forced to settle for second place again.

Corona will lose another key piece to its distance dominance in recent years as Marcus Wheeler will graduate this year after winning the senior event in a time of 15:42 to make it three out of four years.  Cade Burks from Perry High School won the junior competition in a time of 16:27, Corona’s Slade Sumners was the sophomore winner at 16:06, and Robby Foster from Shadow Mountain High won the freshman race in a time of 17:44.

Sumners will be an important part of the future of boys’ distance running at Corona.  His win this year makes it two in a row as he tries to duplicate Rodriguez’s four-peat.

For the girls, it was Highland’s Lauren Ellsworth posting the winning time of 18:59 in the senior event, followed by Alexis Nichols from Chandler High winning the junior competition (20:13), Allie Schadler from Rio Rico High taking the sophomore title (19:35), and Chandler’s Ava Hamilton claiming the freshman title (19:38).