To no one’s surprise, this year’s Division I cross country state team titles went to the teams with the biggest weapons in their arsenals.
This year’s winning schools each featured the best individual runner the state has to offer.
For Brophy Prep, which won the boys’ D-I state championship, that weapon was Xander Black, who entered the 2020 state championships as the favorite to win the individual boys’ title. He lived up to expectations, winning in a time of 15:34.6 to carry the Broncos to their first state title in almost 20 years.
And for the Desert Vista High School girls, their title run at Crossroads Park in Gilbert was led by the fastest distance runner in the state, Lauren Ping, who has been virtually unchallenged throughout the regular season.
Black, a senior at the all-boys Catholic school in central Phoenix, led the Broncos to their first state championship in the sport since 2003 when they won their only other state title.
Brophy’s 56 team points enabled the Broncos to finish 10 points ahead of runner-up Desert Vista HS, which had won five straight titles before being dethroned last year by Highland High. Highland finished third this year with 74 points, falling well short of its effort at a repeat.
Highland has been nipping at the heels of Brophy all season long, finishing five points behind the Broncos at the Chandler Invite, and 11 points away from catching Brophy in the Western Equinox Cross Country Festival a week later.
Brophy won the Session I Big-School team title at the Western Equinox, which included runners from D-I and D-II, with Black coming in third among three Brophy runners finishing in the top 10.
Black’s win makes him just the second Brophy cross country runner to earn that honor, the last being claimed by Charles Hampton, who won it in 2002 and 2003. Ironically, Black’s current coach, Oscar Barboa, was on the 2003 championship team with Hampton.
On the girls’ side, Desert Vista’s championship is the second in a row for the Thunder. Both title wins were led by sophomore sensation Lauren Ping, who won last year’s individual title and repeated this year. Her sister, Grace, has also been one of the team’s top competitors and the senior wasn’t far behind her little sister at state, finishing in sixth place to help the Thunder to the 41 points they needed for the team win – eight better than last year’s winning total.
But it was the Ping sisters’ junior teammate, Katie Sigerud, who gave the Thunder its critical 1-2 finish. Lauren Ping completed the 3.1 mile course in 17:13.4 and Sigerud’s runner-up time was 17:38.6.
In addition to the three top-10 finishers for the Thunder, they got some additional scoring from Emily Littlefield (11th) and Baille Christofis (27th).
Highland, which finished runner-up to Desert Vista in the 2019 state championships, found itself in the same position this year. The Hawks were able to place all five of their runners among the top 16 finishers to come up with their team total of 44 points, with Kayla Case‘s third-place finish leading the challenge to the Thunder.
Perry HS finished third with 84 points and Xavier Prep, which won the 2018 team title, came in fourth with 124.