There was a little of the old and a lot of the new Saturday on a sun-drenched day at the state cross country championships at Cave Creek Golf Course in Phoenix.
In the eight races contested (four boys and four girls), seven new individual champions were crowned and five new team champs emerged.
Here is a rundown by gender of how the meets played out:
The best and most dramatic race of the day took place first thing in Division II. Catalina Foothills Harvey Nelson and Campo Verde's Lucky Schreiner were the combatants and Schreiner appeared to have the race ino hand over the final 30 to 40 meters. Schreiner, however, was running out of gas as he finished and Nelson made one final hectic push for the first. Nelson made up about 20 meters late and the pair hit the finish line at nearly the same time. Schreiner stumbled over the timing bar and Nelson lunged. According to the computer detecting the first runner, Nelson was it.
“This is amazing,” Nelson said. “I saw him slowing down in front of me, and I said this is my last chance and went for a big kick. I think he was hurting bad at the end”
Nelson, a senior, finished third last season so winning in his final year was huge. Last week Nelson lost to Schreiner by 18 seconds at their sectional and a month ago Schreiner edged Nelson by one second for fifth place at Desert Twilight. Nelson's time on Saturday was 15 minutes, 25 seconds a personal best and the best time of the day for any male runner. Schreiner's time was 15:26.
Schreiner, a junior who finished 95th as a freshman and 20th last year, was distraught for a few moments after collapsing outside the finish chute. He regrouped and looked back proudly at his season.
“He ran his best, I ran my best,” Schreiner said. “I lost by a centimeter. I can still hold my head high. It was a PR for both of us. I've go another chance next year.”
Campo Verde coach Josh Applebach felt for Schreiner and even checked the finish photo to make sure.
“He executed his plan all the way except for the last 30 meters,” Applebach said. “They were chest to chest at the finish. The computer picked up Nelson's chip.”
Makiing it an even better day for Nelson was the fact he and his teammates prevailed in the team competition. CFH totated 158 points to runner-up Greenway's 157. Marana Mountain View (183) was third.
As expected in the D-I boys race Corona del Sol's Nathan Rodriguez completed a perfect season individually by adding his first individual state title. Rodriguez covered the course in 15:29, three seconds ahead of teammate Ryan Normand and seven ticks ahead of teammate Marcus Wheeler. They combined for a 1-2-3 finish as Corona (48 points) dethroned Desert Vista (80) as team champ. It's Corona's second boys' cross country title. The Aztecs other came in 1992.
“I was a little tired today, but I went out giving my best effort,” Roidriguez said. …. Winning this is a goal I've had since I was a freshman. I just tried to keep my goals in sight and do everything I can for the team. We came together as a team as no other Corona team has done.”
Rounding out the top 5 in the race were Mountain Ridge's Nick Dale (4th) and Mesquite's Tyler Day (5th). Both were solid all season in their invitational showings.
In Division III Rio Rico produced the individual champ in junior Oscar Amaya (15:47), but wasn't able to repeat as division champs. Tuba City (48 points) achieved that honor placing its five scoring runners in the top 18 to offset Rio Rico's 1-2 finish. Rio Rico was second with 71 and Page (117) took third.
The Division IV title went to one of the division's most consistent runners the past four years — Arizona Lutheran's Josh Hoskinson. Hoskinson's time of 16:14 was 18 seconds better than runner-up Howard Anfernee of Hopi and his best in four trips to state. Hoskinson finished in the top 20 all four years (20th, 12th, 2nd and 1st). Hopi won its 24th boys team title scoring 69 points to outdistance runner-up Pinon (124). Pusch Ridge (147) was third.
The most anticipated team race on Saturday was D-I girls. The race didn't disappoint. Desert Vista and Xavier was the matchup and Desert Vista managed to end Xavier's six-year run as big-school champ. Desert Vista totaled 60 poiints, Xavier finished with 70 and Mesa Mtn. View (145) was third.
Like Corona's boys team victory, the Thunder got a huge boost from a 1-2 finish of sisters Dani Jones (junior) and Baylee Jones (freshman). Dani Jones posed the best girls time of the day at 18:00. Baylee was next at 18:10. Rounding out the top five were Highland's Lauren Ellsworth (third), Corona del Sol's Kelly Naumann (fourth) and Mesa Mounain View's Huston Jones (fifth).
Desert Vista placed all its scorers in the top 21 (1, 2, 16, 20 and 21). Xavier packed its runners nicely, good enough to win most years. Xavier's five scoring runners (9, 12, 15, 17 and 18) were only 14 seconds apart.
“I was proud of our kids,” Desert Vista coach Jeff Messer said, in his first-year as coach after leaving Xavier last winter. “We were not winning at the 2 1/4 mile mark., but we closed real hard. I'm impressed with the patience they showed all season.”
Messer was glad to have the 1-2 punch of the Jones sisters, which went a long way in the Thunder prevailing. Fourth and fifth runners often decide team titles. But…
“They are a special pair of young ladies,” Messer said. “Having two low sticks like we had puts you in the conversation.”
Completing the scorers for Desert Vista were Madi Bucci (16th), Amanda Davis (20th) and Sabrina Camino (21st). Xavier's five were Sierra Brown (9th), Lauren Kinzle (12th), Jane Miller (15th), Samantha Mattice (17th) and Shelby Brown (18th).
Division II was where nothing changed for the third year in a row. Flagstaff High and senior Tatiana Gillick won third consecutive individual and team titles, respectively. Gillick prevailed with a time of 18:28, 37 seconds faster than teammate Alix Manci. Next were Arcadia's Megan Renwiecki, Vista Grande's Carissa Diaz and Flagstaff's Fiona Nicholson. Flagstaff totaled 34 points and runner-up Catalina Foothills had 87.
“The race went really well,” Gillick said. “I felt great and my teammates helped push me right from the start.”
Gillick 's time on Saturday was her best among the four times she ran at state. Her previous best came in 2011 (18:29).
The Division III girls team title was Page's in 2012, but Rio Rico ripped that away led by freshman individual champ Allie Schadler. Schadler covered the 3.1 mile course in 18:38. That was well ahead of Ganado duo Daangoiia Haven and Nikesha Eagleman (18:58). Fountain Hills Sierra Jarriel, the leader of the race at the mile mark, finished fourth and Page's Justine Taylor placed fifth.
For Rio Rico coach Steve Schadler, the girls championship was a trade off from last year when the boys were champs. His daughter's win plus Amaya's boys' triumph was a little extra for his day with a first-place trophy and a runner-up teamwise. Rio Rico finished with 89 points followed by Mingus (132) and Page (149).
Allie Schadler has taken in a lot this freshman season with her success coming so swiftly.
“It feels amazing,” Allie Schadler said. “I've been surprised at my progress. It's pretty cool for us to have runners winning. It means we hae good teams all around.”
The final race of the day unveiled a new D-IV individual champ, but a repeat in team compettiton. The new individual champ is Northland Pred freshman Valentina Nyhart. Nyhart's time was 19:39 to best a tight field 2-5. Finishing second was Hopi's Christen Ben, followed by Pusch Ridge's Cayley Hensley, Scottsdale Prep's Charlotte Moore and Pusch Ridge's Grace Johnson.
Repeating in the team race was Hopi (38). Pusch Ridge (56), Scottdale Prep (69) and Northland Prep (71) were next. Hensley is a sophomore and Johnson a junior so they'll have another shot at Nyhart next year.