It had already been dark for a couple of hours when Leo Daschbach slipped quietly into the Casa Grande night, emerging almost 15 minutes later as the winner of the Nike Desert Twilight cross country invitational.
His official time of 14:14.26 over the 5K course at the Grande World Sports Complex earned the senior from Highland High School a new event record. His winning time in the boys’ sweepstakes race was also good enough to place second nationally at that distance.
And the times he’s turning in right now would likely have also been good enough to win the 47th running of the prestigious Doug Conley Invitational a week earlier. A recruiting trip to Colorado kept Daschbach, who won the Conley title last year, from participating this year.
But, in his absence, Highland teammate Caden Resendez brought home the Conley title with a time of 15:39 at Shalimar Country Club in Tempe, leading the Hawks to a repeat of the team title in the elite division.
The Highland girls’ team also took the team title at the Conley, giving the Gilbert school a clean sweep. Caroline McLeskey, who finished fourth at last year’s Conley, won the girls’ competition with a time of 17:43 to successfully defend her title.
Daschbach’s win at the Desert Twilight didn’t surprise anyone; the senior has been a favorite to win at state this year. And Lauren Ping also lived up to expectations with a second-place finish in the sweepstakes competition on the girls’ side. The winner, Jenna Hutchins, is from Science Hill HS in Tennessee. So Ping, with a time of 16:49.13, led all Arizona runners.
Ping, who won the Desert Solstice four weeks ago, is just a freshman, running for Desert Vista High School in southeast Phoenix.
Daschbach and Ping were competing against more than two dozen teams from all over the country in an event that annually provides quality competition for those runners who want to be ready when the state tournament begins.
Niwot, a team from Colorado, won the girls’ sweepstakes at this year’s Desert Twilight, and Conroe the Woodlands from Texas took home the boys’ title in a field of 220 runners from 28 schools.
While Arizona schools couldn’t claim a team title, Desert Vista led the local girls’ teams with a fourth-place finish among 22 teams entered, and the Highland boys finished in fifth place.