Chandler HS girls win school’s first XC state title

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                </div>  Last year, when the Desert Vista High School girls cross country team won their second consecutive D-I state title, it looked like the Thunder’s reign would continue for some […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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Last year, when the Desert Vista High School girls cross country team won their second consecutive D-I state title, it looked like the Thunder’s reign would continue for some time to come.  Five of their top runners returned this year and the 2015 squad entered the season as the No.4-ranked team in the country.

But the one runner they lost to graduation was Dani Jones, considered the top prep distance runner in Arizona and among the 10 best in the nation.  Had the 2014 state champion been in the pack yesterday, the result might have been very different.

But, instead, the Chandler High Wolves were able to pull off a stunning upset and claim the first girls’ cross country state championship, placing five runners among the top 20 finishers to put together a final score of 46 points.

Not only did this group serve notice that Chandler has arrived on the cross country scene, but that it may hold court for several years to come.  Four of those five are underclassmen.

Senior Alexis Nichols led the way with a fifth-place performance in a time of 18:36, followed by freshman Morgan Foster in sixth (18:41), sophomore Ava Hamilton in eighth (18:57), and freshman Becca Taylor rounding out the group with an 18th-place finish (19:22).

Having three unknown freshmen step into the scoring ranks enabled Chandler to sneak up on the competition this year.  But that won’t be the case next year, when 2012 champ and perennial power Xavier Prep and Desert Vista realize what it will take to get back on top.

Xavier finished second this year with 51 points, followed by Desert Vista with 56.  It was Xavier’s Sarah Carter that was this year’s individual champion.

Baylee Jones, Dani’s younger sister who is now a junior, was expected to take over as DV’s leader of the pack.  Baylee finished second at state as a freshman and took third last year.

But she faltered midway through this year’s event on the rolling course laid out at the Cave Creek Golf Course and had to settle for a 16th place finish.   Emily Crall led the Thunder with a second-place finish in 18:17.

But the day wasn’t a total loss for Desert Vista.  Its boys’ team won its third state title in four years and the seventh since we turned the calendar to 2000.

DJ Harris led the Thunder with a time of 15:50 to take the trophy as individual champion, while four other Thunder runners finished in the top 15.  Xavier Esparza came in fifth with a time of 16:08, followed by Habtamu Cheney (8th-16:16), Chris DeAngelo (14th-16:27), and Reece Donihi (15th-16:30).

Their combined time of 1:21.11 fell just short of the best time on record for Arizona high school boys’ cross country, recorded two years ago by a Corona del Sol High School squad that completed the 2013 season undefeated and posted a combined time of 1:19.50.