AZ prep cross country season kicks off with top invites


There was plenty of opportunity over the weekend for the state’s high school cross country programs to test their readiness as the 2017 season gets underway.  In addition to the ‘granddaddy’ of early-season invitationals, the 23rd annual Chandler Cross Country Invitational, other competitive events were being held from the high country of Flagstaff to the Valley below.

The Chandler Invitational has a new girls’ team champion this year, while the Campo Verde High School boys successfully defended their event title by scoring 19 points to become this year’s winning team.  Mountain View High School (Mesa) took the girls’ team championship by finishing with a team-total 20 points.

This event, which included 43 schools and held at Tumbleweed Regional Park in Chandler, is scored a little differently than most other invitationals and is done two ways: 1) By class, freshman through senior, for both boys’ and girls’ teams.  Teams need three runners to score.  2) By adding the top finishers from all four races.  Teams must have a finisher in all four races to score.

Last year’s team champion on the girls’ side, Chandler High, wasn’t far behind Mountain View, scoring 36 points to place second.  Third place went to Tempe’s Coronal del Sol High School with 64 points.

Chandler also finished runner-up on the boys’ side with 27 points, narrowly edging out third-place Mountain View, which collected 28 points.

It was Ryan Stubbs in the junior competition who came through again for Campo Verde with a repeat of his first-place win last year as a sophomore, finishing in 16:44.3. He was joined in the scoring by Kenny Edwards, who had a second-place finish in the sophomore race, and senior Zack Prusse (6th) and freshman Anthony Cox (9th).

The Mountain View girls did it the hard way, without a first-place finisher.  A freshman, Abigail Welch, made the biggest contribution with a second-place finish in a time of 21:02; the winner was Kylie Miller from Perry High (19:58.4).  Welch was followed by third-place finishes from sophomore Elizabeth Christensen and junior Kailey Welch, and a 12th place by senior Aryanna Tahiliana.

Also in the East Valley… Red Mountain High School was hosting the King of the Mountain Invitational at Long Bow Golf Club in Mesa.

Highland High stole the show in this one, sweeping both the boys’ and girls’ titles.  The boys’ competition presented the biggest team challenge as Highland finished with 40 points, just ahead of runner-up Hamilton High with 42 points.  The Highland girls scored 32 points, seven points ahead of second-place Red Mountain.

The Highland boys were led by Will Daschbach‘s third-place finish, with a couple of teammates posting top-10 finishes: Leo Daschbach (5th), DAllin Archibald (7th).  And Caroline McLesey paced the girls with a first-place finish of 19:09, followed closely by Rachel McCleve (4th), Caroline Sloan (7th), Ashley Mask (9th), and Breana Hanks (11th).

And up in the high country… Flagstaff High School opened their cross country season by hosting the Peaks Invitational at Buffalo Park and then dominating the event as they had done last year.

In the event’s top competition, the Summit division, the Flagstaff boys’ team finished in first place with a team total 79 points and the girls also collected gold with 28 points. The girls’ team left the competition in the dust, well ahead of runner-up Mountain Ridge High School‘s 103 points.

Wren Cooperrider‘s eighth-place finish in a time of 17:59.8 paced the boys’ win, while Maddie Christopher brought home the gold for the girls by posting a 20:44.1 finish – one of four Eagle runners that finished in the top 10 spots.

The spotlight performer for this year’s event comes from another Flagstaff school, Northland Preparatory AcademyMaya Smith, who has already won three straight D-IV state titles, set a new meet record with a time of 18:55.3 to win the Ascent division.

That time is well ahead of her winning time last year of 20:27.  If that’s any indication at all, the senior may well be on her way to a fourth state championship.