Chandler High School won its first-ever girls’ cross country state championship in 2015, and the Wolves evidently haven’t forgotten how they did it.
Chandler finished runner-up last year and this year returned to the top of the mountain to hold off runner-up Xavier Prep and win the Division I state title. Chandler used a third-place finish by junior Mihajla Milovanovic to help the Wolves to a team total 55 points, while Xavier collected 77 points.
Chandler had four top-10 finishers that made the difference in the team scoring: Milovanovic, 3rd (19:17); Kylie Welch, 5th (19:24); Becca Taylor, 7th (19:50), and Kerri Welch, 8th (19:57). Xavier got its points with five top-20 finishes: Jamie Stelnik, 11th (20:01); Cami Merickel, 14th (20:10); Mia Olsen, 18th (20:14); Helen Innes, 19th (20:20); and Karina Hawkins, 20th (20:23).
Xavier ruled the state playoffs from 2010 to 2012, but since then it has been Desert Vista High‘s show. The Thunder have won three out of the last four D-I titles, but this year’s second championship for Chandler means there’s a new player in girls’ distance running.
However, it was a Desert Vista runner that won the girls’ individual title. Senior Haley Wolf won the D-I event with a time of 18:38, followed by Highland High’s Caroline McLeskey, who finished just 18 seconds off the winning pace at 18:56.
Desert Vista has also been a dominant force on the boys’ side in recent years, winning the boys’ team title again this year to make if four in a row and five out of the last six. Tempe’s Corona del Sol High School is the only school to have broken through the Thunder’s recent reign, taking the boys’ title in 2013.
The Thunder easily ran away with this year’s championship, scoring 34 points, well ahead of runner-up Brophy Prep‘s 130. Highland High came in third with 141 points.
Highland sophomore Leo Daschbach claimed this year’s individual title in a close finish that saw the three top placers bunched together in a seven-second spread. Daschbach finished in 15:53, followed by Desert Vista’s Habtamu Cheney (15:56) and Caden Hercules from Desert Mountain High School (16:00).
Desert Vista also placed three other runners in the top 10: Reece Donihy, 5th (16:06); Sammy Van Alstine, 6th (16:08); and Bryce Schmisseur, 9th (16:14).
In the lower divisions, the top story lines were all on the girls’ side, where continued dominance was the theme of the day.
In Division IV, Maya Smith from Northland Prep in Flagstaff, wrapped up her prep career by nailing down her fourth individual state title in a time of 18:01, almost a full minute ahead of the rest of the runners at the Cave Creek Golf Course. And Chaparral High‘s Abi Archer won her second straight title by blowing past the field of runners and finishing more than a minute ahead of runner-up Richelle Sandin from Tucson’s Catalina Foothills High School.
In Division III, Samantha Schadler won her first state title, but it was the fifth straight between her and her famous sister, Allie, who is now running at the University of Washington. Her older sister collected 15 state titles in track and cross country during her four years at Rio Rico High School.
Samantha finished runner-up to Allie last year at State, showing she was going to be the heir-apparent to the crown. She’s starting later than her sister, but her time of 18:06 was enough to give the junior at Rio Rico her first state title and a start on a the second.