Twenty-nine boys teams and 22 girls teams comprise the entries in the sweepstakes (elite races) at Friday's (Oct. 4) 7th annual Desert Twilight Cross Country Invitational at Toka Sticks Golf Course in Mesa. Competition begins at 4 pm. with several divisions and 150 schools taking part, mostly from Arizona with a handful from out of state.
The Milesplit Girls Sweepstakes and the Sole Sports Boys Sweepstakes races are the marquee races at Desert Twilight and finish up seven hours of races. The girls sweepstakes race is set to start at 9 p.m. and the boys sweepstakes at 9:35 p.m.
Xavier Prep, the three-time defending D-I girls state champion and the defendiing meet champion, trots out a lineup that includes six of its top runners who did not compete at last week's Doug Conley Invite. Xavier lost last year's individual Twilight champ (Sarah Fakler) to graduation. Still the Gators have four runners who were part of the Twilight victory in 2012. Three of those four scored — senior Shelby Brown (3rd overall), junior Sierra Brown (5th) and senior Julianne Vice (10th).
Angling to challenge Xavier are Desert Vista and Mesa Mountain View. Desert Vista is led by junior Dani Jones. Dani Jones finished sixth at the D-I state meet and sixth overall last year at Twilight. Dani Jones younger sister, freshman Baylee Jones, was second to Dani at Silverado Golf Course at month ago. Desert Vista edged Xavier for the top spot at the Sole Sports Festival at Silverado Golf Course in Scottsdale the first week of September. Mesa Mountain View placed third there behind Desert Vista and Xavier. Mesa Mountain View's top runner is senior Huston Jones, who was 5th at the D-I state meet last year, third at Silverado behind the Jones' sisters and 17th last year at Twilight. The top out-of-state contender figures to be Lak Braddock Secondary (Burke, Va), a big-school champ in Virginia.
Other runners to watch in the girls sweepstakes race: Highland's Lauren Ellsworth; Chaparral's Emily Krall and Ali Kallner; Rio Rico's Alexandra Schadler; Sandra Day O'Connor's Kyra Lopez, Arcadia's Megan Reniewicki; Mesquite's Alice Jensen and Red Mountain's Taryn Estavillo.
Schools entered in the girls sweepstakes race: Arcadia, Catalina Foothills, Chaparral, Corona del Sol, Desert Vista, Durango, Highland, Hopi, Ironwood Ridge, Lake Braddock Secondary, Va.; Los Alamos, N.M., Mesa Mountain View; Northland Prep, Page, Red Mountain, Redondo Union, Rio Rancho, Rio Rico, Sandra Day O'Connor, Skyline, St. Pius X and Xavier Prep.
The boys sweepstakes features Corona del Sol, which has won all four invitationals it has competed in thus far in 2013. The Aztecs feature a trio of runners who pack it in at the top led by seniors Nathan Rodriguez and Ryan Normand. Junior Marcus Wheeler has joined the pair near the top in recent races. Rodrgiuez is the top returning runner in the boys sweepstakes. He finished third overall last season behind Cibola's Bernie Montoya and Salpointe's Andy Trouard. Desert Vista has given Corona its toughest competition this seasom, but hasn't gone with its top runners against the Aztecs since the first week of the season at the Sole Sports Festival. Desert Vista is led by jacob Walimaa, Alex Hoyt and Xavier Esparza. Other Arizona schools who could contend for the title are Page, Rio Rico, Tuba City and Ironwood Ridge. The top teams entered from out of state are Redondo Union, Redondo Beach, Calif., Los Alamos, N.M. and Rio Rancho, N.M.
Other runners to watch in the boys sweepstakes race: Tuba City's Anthony Masayesva, Campo Verde's Lucky Schreiner, Rio Rico's Oscar Amaya, Carlos Villarreal and Ben Noreiga, Arizona Lutheran's Josh Hoskinson, Mesquite's Tyler Day Page's Tyron Yazzie, Jeffery Miller and Xiaija Schuldies, Muntain Ridge's Nick Dale, Pusch Ridge's Kyle Cajero, Higley's Brennen Barfus, Notre Dame Prep's Jake Hovland, Highland's Weston Jones, McClintock's Emmanuel Hidalgo and Ironwood Ridge's Jordan Hellebuyck and Cal Skilsky.
Schools entered in the boys sweepstakes race: Arcadia, Brophy Prep, Buena, Campo Verde, Catalina Foothills, Corona del Sol, Deer Valley, Desert Mountain, Desert Vista, Durango, Highland, Hopi, Ironwood Ridge, Lake Braddock Secondary, Va., Los Alamos, N.M., McClintock, Mountain Ridge, Mesa Mtn. View, Page, Piedra Vista, Red Mountain, Redondo Union, Rincon, Rio Rancho, Rio Rico, Sabino, Sedona Red Rock, St. Pius X and Tuba City.