Samantha Schadler keeps Desert Twilight XC title in family


Samantha Schadler, who has been running in the shadow of her big sister, Allie, for the past two years was able to use last weekend’s Desert Twilight Cross Country Invitational to step out into her own spotlight.

And her Sweepstakes win at the Desert Twilight was something her big sis couldn’t accomplish until her senior year.  Samantha knocked a year off that timetable, winning as a junior.

Allie Schadler, who graduated from Rio Rico High School last year after dominating the small-school distance competition for four years, finished in the top five her first three years at the Desert Twilight, but couldn’t capture the sweepstakes crown until the final year of her prep career.

Allie won last year, covering the course at the Arizona Grande Sports World in Casa Grande in a time of 17:03.8.  Samantha was off that pace at this year’s event, finishing in 17:16.  But the Rio Rico junior has another year to work at beating her sister’s mark.

The Desert Twilight, which just finished its 9th year, is different than other races.  Over the years it has created a festival kind of atmosphere as the younger runners in the earliest of the 19 races of the day take off around 4 o’clock in the afternoon and by the time the ‘marque’ events get started, the runners are navigating the looped 5,000-meter course under lights strung along the way.

It has also become the Nike Pre-Southwest Regional meet, featuring some of the best XC teams in the country.

The elite race, the Sweepstakes, is the final event of the day, with the girls starting at 9 p.m., followed by the boys 25 minutes later.

In the girls’ sweepstakes competition, Xavier Prep has been the most dominant team since the event began at Toka Sticks Golf Course in Mesa, before switching to Casa Grande in recent years.  The Gators won four straight Twilight titles from 2009-12 and continue to place among the top five each year.

But the last two years, Desert Vista High School has won the girls’ sweepstakes.

This time, however, Chandler High pushed them both out of the way en route to running away with the sweepstakes title, finishing with 119 points.  The closest local entrant, Xavier, came in fourth with 189 points, and Desert Vista was the only other local team in the top 10, taking sixth place with 212 points.

Desert Vista’s Haley Wolf finished on the heels of Schadler’s win, clocking 17:22 for second place.  And Chandler’s Morgan Foster tied for third place with Tatum Miller from Air Academy High School in Colorado Springs in a time of 17:45.

On the boys’ side, the sweepstakes winners have not come from Arizona over the last few years.  Chinle High was the top local competitor last year with a fifth-place finish, and the year before Desert Vista came in second.

But this year, Desert Vista got over the hump, winning the sweepstakes with 71 points.  Two other local schools finished in the top 10, with Brophy Prep coming in eighth (297 points) and Highland High finished ninth (303).

Thomas Cain from Cibola High School was the only in-state runner to finish among the boys’ top 10.  He finished in a three-way tie for fourth place with a time of 15:07.