What a difference a year makes.
The winner of this year’s girls Elite Division at the 45th annual Doug Conley Cross Country Invitational didn’t even enter that competition last year, and the winning boys’ team had a difficult time last year just getting into the top 10.
But the Highland High School boys took this year’s Elite title – although by the slimmest of margins. The Hawks compiled 100 team points to squeeze past a Page High School team that finished the event with 101 points, and a third-place Mountain View High School (Mesa) squad that posted 102 points. However, there was plenty of separation from the rest of the field, with Corona del Sol High School the next closest team with 150 points.
Last year, Highland’s top finisher was Devin Bowen, who came in 24th and was one of just two Highland runners making it into the top 50. The other, Will Daschbach, finished 29th.
But this year Daschbach led the Gilbert school, which also won the Desert Solstice earlier this month, with a sixth-place finish by posting a time of 15:37.7, a big improvement over his time last year of 16:02. Leo Daschbach crossed the finish line just two spots back in seventh with a time of 15:46.50.
Three other Hawks were included in the pack of top-50 finishers: Dallin Archibald (26th/16:18.7)), Caden Resendez ( 31st/16:26.2), and Riley Cullinan (33rd/16:27.4).
Will Daschbach’s 15:37.7 is the eighth-fastest boys’ time in the state this season.
Bowen Martin from Page took top individual honors with a winning time of 15:20.8, followed closely by Desert Mountain‘s Caden Hercules in at 15:21.1 and Jacob Lewis from Boulder Creek High School at 15:26.7.
On the girls’ side, Xavier Prep ran away with the Elite team title, putting together a team total of 68 points, comfortably ahead of runner-up Highland with 79 points and a long way in front of the rest of the field, led by third-place Red Mountain High School with 160 points. Highland won the girls’ Elite title last year.
Xavier, which ran in the girls’ invitational competition last year, and won that event, overwhelmed the Elite field this year by placing five runners in the top 20 finishers on the course run at the Shalimar Country Club in Tempe. Jamie Stelnik and Caroline Liddy were the first Xavier runners across the line, with Stelnik clocking 18:58.1 for 10th place and Liddy right behind in 11th place (19:07.2).
Karina Hawkins was just two places back, finishing in 13th with a time of 19:09.5, and Karina Smith came in 18th (19:21.4) and Cami Merickel in 20th (19:39.2).
Abi Archer, who was runner-up last year, was the first runner across the finish line in the girls’ Elite. The junior from Chaparral High School, the reigning D-II cross country state champion, posted a winning time of 17:45.6, ahead of runner-up Caroline McLeskey from Highland who wasn’t far off the pace at 17:54.3.