Highland ends Desert Vista’s reign of 5 straight XC titles


For the first time in six years, the Desert Vista High School boys cross country team was unable to bring home a state title.

But, no worries.  The DV girls picked up the slack.

That’s not particularly surprising.  While the DV boys are coming off five consecutive D-I cross country team titles, broken this season by Highland High, the girls have also been building a powerhouse program of their own.  Since 2013 they have won three state team titles and also finished twice among the top three.

Last weekend’s title-winning performance was fueled by the addition of a couple of newcomers to the Desert Vista girls program, sisters Lauren Ping and Grace Ping.  Lauren, a freshman, finished the 5K course at Cave Creek Golf Course in a winning time of 17:36, sixth-best in the course record books.  Her junior sister, Grace, wasn’t far behind, finishing second in a time of 17:57.

Three other runners added to the scoring: Emily Littlefield in 9th place, Olivia Thatcher (16th), and Bailee Christofis (21st).

Rounding out the top five scorers were Taylor Lovell, Perry HS (3rd), Rujuta Sane, Hamilton HS (4th), and Cami Merickel, Pinnacle HS (5th).

The Desert Vista boys were runner-up to Highland, but their 65 team points were well off the torrid pace set by Highland, which took title honors with 39 points that included four top-10 finishers.  That depth this year made it possible for the Hawks to win just their second state team title in school history, the last coming eight years ago.  It also finally soothed the disappointment of finishing runner-up to Desert Vista last season.

That depth is what it takes to win team titles.  Last year, Desert Vista earned its fifth straight by claiming three of the top four spots.

This year, it was the state’s top distance runner, Leo Daschbach, leading the way in the Highland scoring.  The senior, who also won an individual title as a sophomore, finished the course in a winning time of 15:27.  That was 24 seconds off the course record, despite the fact that Daschbach hadn’t completely recovered from a hamstring injury that kept him out of the sectional meet.

Highland’s additional scoring came from Caden Resendez (5th), Ernest Green (7th), Sam Green (9th), and Jagger Zlotoff (17th).

And, just as Desert Vista was able to pull off a 1-2 finish with their boys and girls programs, so did Highland.  The Hawks’ girls team was runner-up on their side of the competition, finishing with a score of 99, followed by Xavier Prep, last year’s champion, with 106.