Every once in a while a cross country team slips past Desert Vista High School to win a state title.
But not this year.
The DV boys team won its third straight Division I state championship over the weekend and the girls reclaimed their right to the throne. The boys have won four of the last five titles and the girls were displaced last year by Chandler High after winning the previous two, so they have three out of the last five.
Chandler won its first-ever girls’ state XC title in 2015 and did it with a group of underclassmen, so odds were pretty good for a repeat this year. Desert Vista had to settle for third place behind runner-up Xavier College Prep.
But the Thunder girls were well-prepared to take over at the top again this season. They rested their top runners, instead of having them compete in regionals, and the results at state turned out to be a state-record point total.
Desert Vista placed runners in the second through sixth slots for a combined team total of 20 points, which beats the five-year old mark for big schools of 22 points set by Xavier. Haley Wolf led a pack of six Thunder runners that crossed the finish line in a nine-second span. The junior finished in second place with a time of 18:30, followed by Baylee Jones (18:31), Emily Crall (18:35), Brooklyn Christofis (18:38), Amanda Davis (18:39).
Chandler was well behind in second place with 105 team points, while Highland High took third (112) and Xavier followed with 142 points.
This also marks the end of the Jones era in prep cross country. Baylee will graduate this year after two runner-up finishes and a third-place at state during her career. Before her, sister Dani led the Thunder for four years and graduated among the top 10 runners in the nation. Dani Jones won a state title as a junior and then repeated the next year, when she was named the AZ Republic Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year.
The Desert Vista boys’ squad repeated as champions by scoring a team total 57 to edge out Brophy Prep, the runner-up with 70 points. The Broncos secured second dplace by placing five runners in the top 20.
Habtamu Cheney posted the best time for the Thunder, coming in fourth with a time of 15:54. He was followed by Reece Donihi in 9th (16:14), Chris D’Angelo in 12th (16:21), Nick Thatcher in 14th (16:30), and Askel Loudon in 18th (16:33).
Third place behind DV and Brophy went to Corona del Sol High School with 116 points and Mountain View High (Mesa) followed with 143.
INDIVIDUAL TITLES went to Abdihamid Nur from North High School and Jesselyn Bries from Sandra Day O’Connor High School.
Nur captured the boys title with a time of 15:49. He was followed by a couple of runners from Brophy who finished in a dead heat for second place. Luke Mason and Hociel Landa both crossed the line two second behind Nur, posting an identical 15:51. Those top finishes enabled Brophy to take the team runner-up spot.
Bries took a different approach, finishing well ahead of the pack in a time of 18:03. The first of the Desert Vista runners came in 27 seconds behind her for the runner-up spot. Bries is a junior, so she will have a chance for a repeat next year.