Steve Magnuson of Ironwood Ridge has spent his senior season showing why he's one of the top-ranked runners in the country.
Magnuson has finished first in four of his five invitationals. Earlier this month, he won the Doug Conley Invitational and wasn't challenged.
For a runner ranked 19th nationally, the season's most significant competition thus far came on Oct. 2, when Magnuson competed in the Queen Creek Twilight Invitational. He finally got a chance to race against someone ranked higher than himself, Brian Shrader of Flagstaff, sixth nationally. While Shrader won the race with a time of 14:24, Magnuson finished a close second with a time of 14:31.
"Magnuson was only a few seconds behind," said Ironwood boys coach Garry Forrest. "His focus is on Foot Locker on Dec. 7. He's running 85-90 miles a week."
The Nighthawks are fortunate that Magnuson chose to spend his senior year running for them, as he transferred from Salpointe Catholic. He had taken the summer off to rehab after he had suffered an Achilles injury.
Regionals are Oct. 31, state on Nov. 7.
The Nighthawks want to compete for a state title, and they've defeated Sunnyside, the defending 5A-II state champions, in head-to-head competition. Drew Garcia finished fourth, Wally Hensley was sixth, and Mitchell Roberts came in ninth in that event. All three are freshmen.
"We have a talented group of freshmen," Forrest said.
The Ironwood Ridge girls have a tough act to follow, as they captured the 5A-II state championship in each of the last two years. Last year, the Nighthawks finished first at the Co-Ed Rattler Invitational and at the Doug Conley.
"It was neater than winning at state," said girls coach Rob Clouse.
Last year, junior Sarah Miville was fourth at state, senior Alison Crawford fifth, and Sam Strange 14th.
At the Queen Creek event Oct. 2, three Nighthawk girls had top-30 finishes. Miville was 19th with a time of 18:29. Crawford finished 26th with a time of 18:45, and Lauren Cooper was 30th at 18:55.
"We've been fortunate to get some talented athletes," Clouse said. "It helps to have a successful program."
Boys coach Forrest has high hopes for both squads at regionals and state.
"We should both win the regional meets," Forrest said. "We should probably be favored in the state meet."