Smith, Schadler off to fast start in prep girls’ cross country

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                </div>  A couple of cross country invitationals over the weekend gave Arizona fans a chance to check out one runner in the final year of an outstanding high school career, […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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A couple of cross country invitationals over the weekend gave Arizona fans a chance to check out one runner in the final year of an outstanding high school career, and another that is fast becoming a rising star in the sport.

One tied a meet record.  The other set a new one.

Maya Smith (above) is beginning the final year of her high school competition in distance running, a career that so far has included three straight small-school state titles.  Samantha Schadler is only a junior, but she has perhaps even more name recognition than the senior.

That’s due, in large part, to the accomplishments of her sister, Allie Schadler, who last year wrapped up a remarkable prep career at Rio Rico High School, a small school south of Tucson near the border with Mexico.  Allie collected 15 state championships in track and cross country during her four years.

She owns the state record in the 3200 meters (10:05.70) and ranks No. 2 all-time in the 1600 meters (4:45.15).

Sam has been running in the long shadow of her big sister the last two years; she finished runner-up to Allie in last year’s D-III state cross country championships.  But she’s already taking big steps toward making her own mark on the sport.

Earlier in the summer, Samantha competed in the New Balance Nationals in North Carolina and finished with a time of 4:53.14 in the Emerging Elite mile, which was good enough for fourth place in a field of top competitors from around the country – and slots her in fourth among the best competitors in the event in Arizona annals.

And over the weekend she tied the three-year-old course record at Chandler’s Tumbleweed Park by posting a winning time of 18:10 in the 29th annual Ojo Rojo Cross Country Meet.

Chandler High School won the girls’ team competition for the third straight year as the Wolves placed all seven of their runners in the top 25 to record a team total 36 points.  Kerri (3rd place) and Kylie (5th) Welch led the way in the Wolves’ win.

Meanwhile, Smith was competing up in the thin air of Flagstaff at Buffalo Park, where she set a meet record in the girls’ 3-mile elite varsity part of the Four Corners Invitational.  The senior at Flagstaff’s Northland Prep Academy blew away the field with a time of 17:27 and smashed the old record by more than 30 seconds.

That old mark of 18:02 had been set six years ago by one of the state’s premier distance runners, Rolonda Jumbo.  Jumbo dominated cross country among the small schools during her time at Chinle High School, a small school on the Navajo Indian Reservation, winning four consecutive state titles before going on to compete at Northern Arizona University.

The Northland Prep girls finished runner-up to Flagstaff High, which placed six of its runners in the top 15 and posted a team score of 39 points.  Chloe Painter led the way for the Eagles with a time of 18:56.8 for fourth place.

A couple of weeks ago, Smith warmed up for the Four Corners Invite by winning the girls’ title in the Ascent Division of the Peaks Invitational, also held at Buffalo Park.  Her time of 18:55.3 not only won the event, but also set a new meet record.

Based on that performance, she is likely to end her prep career on a high note.  Her winning time at the Peaks Invite was well ahead of the 20:27 it took for her to win last year.

The stars of Smith and Schadler both appear to be on the rise and they should draw a lot of attention this year as they move from the cross country courses to the outdoor tracks in the spring.

During that time, Smith will try to add more state titles to her collection. And Schadler will look to get hers started.