There are few sports that require more stamina and persistence than cross country, especially in the scorching summer months in Arizona. Dozens of young men and women compete through the fall for their respective schools in the sport, trying to hit their marks so they can qualify for the state championship in their respective divisions.
It’s a grueling sport, with the athletes covering 3.1 miles, often on local golf courses full of undulations and obstacles.
These athletes gut it out over the simmering summer months to get in proper running shape, only to have their training come down to a do-or-die sectional meet, determining whether they’ll qualify for state or not.
This year’s schedule is no different, with each of the state’s four divisions holding meets between August and late October, when each section hosts its own qualifying meet for the state championship.
Those who meet the qualifying standards will head to Cave Creek Golf Course in north Phoenix in the early morning hours on Saturday, Nov. 10 for their division’s state championship meet.
The competition last year in Cave Creek was impressive as always, with several local runners from northwest Tucson setting themselves up for continued success this fall.
I’ve decided to pick out the five athletes that will have the best shot at making it back to Cave Creek for both the boys and girls meets.
Enjoy the list, and make sure to head out to a cross-country meet this fall to cheer on the athletes and their teammates, as their efforts deserve your admiration.
Girls Cross Country
Kristin Finn, Catalina Foothills junior
Finn is tasked with keeping alive the Falcons’ longstanding tradition of excellence in girls cross country, a year after the team placed sixth overall out of 28 teams in the Division II meet. Finn will help replace the output of former teammate Richelle Sandin, who graduated this spring after finishing second overall in last year’s event. Finn has the potential to do just that, showing flashes of brilliance in her 25th overall finish at last year’s championship meet, posting a time of 20:42 in the event, running a 6:40.7-mile pace. Expect Finn to drive the Falcons back into the top-10 at this year’s championship event, as she’s a legitimate top runner for the Falcons.
Sophia Rodriguez, Marana senior
Rodriguez showed her potential last year when she placed 32nd overall with a time of 20:54 in the Division II meet. The rising senior was the top finisher for the Tigers, who finished 20th overall, running a 6:44.5-mile pace for the squad. Rodriguez has the potential to finish in the top-15 at this year’s event, and should push the Tigers to a much better finish in the team-wide standings.
Emma Garnard, Pusch Ridge Christian Academy sophomore
Garnard is coming off an eye-opening freshman campaign for the Lions, capped off by her impressive 38th place finish in the Division IV state meet. She found her way across the finish line in less than 22 minutes, coming in at 21:58, impressive for someone making their first appearance in a state meet. Expect Garnard to drive the Lions forward for years to come, as the squad looks to make a name for itself in Division IV.
Kyra Glassey, Marana sophomore
Glassey, like Garnard, is well ahead of schedule in her development as a long-distance runner, coming off a 50th place finish in the Division II state meet in November. Glassey finished the race in 21:20, a very respectable time for any athlete, much less a freshman making their first appearance in a state meet.
Shania Santos, Marana sophomore
The Tigers are well represented on this list, due mainly to their plethora of young talent that projects to improve in the years ahead. Santos makes the cut due to her upside as a runner, a year after finishing 102nd overall with a time of 22:38 in the Division II state meet. Expect Santos to continue to drive her times lower and lower through the year, with a chance at cracking the top 50 at this year’s state meet.
Boys Cross Country
Kyle Partin, Marana senior
Partin had an impressive junior campaign for the Tigers, culminating in a 16th place finish in last year’s Division II state championship meet. The rising senior has the combination of finesse and stride length to one-up his time of 16:48 from a year ago, with a definite shot at bringing a medal home to Marana this fall.
Isaiah Guevara, Canyon del Oro senior
Guevara, fresh off an 18th place finish in last year’s Division II state meet, has a similar level of upside as Partin this fall—with the type of speed and endurance to finish in the top-10 at this year’s championship meet. Don’t be surprised if Guevara, who (like Partin) finished last year’s meet in 16:48, finds a way to get his times below 16:30—giving him a bona fide shot at finishing in the top-five at this year’s event, should he remain healthy.
Johnny Pershing, Catalina Foothills senior
Pershing finished 21st at last year’s state championship event in Queen Creek, posting a time of 16:52 for the Falcons. He’ll be entrusted with carrying to load for the team this fall, meaning he’ll be enshrined with the task of pacing the team through fall workouts and early season meets. I expect Pershing to do just that, guiding a Falcons team that finished sixth overall in last year’s Division II state championship (out of 30 qualifying teams) towards another successful season.
Xoaquin Baca, Catalina Foothills senior
Baca joins Pershing atop the Falcons’ list of noteworthy athletes, providing Catalina Foothills an unmatched one-two punch this fall. Baca, who finished 29th overall in last year’s Division II state meet with a time of 17:02, will be a name to remember this November, giving the Falcons two potential medalists at this year’s championship meet.
Emmanuel Corral, Pusch Ridge Christian Academy junior
Corral makes this list more for his potential than what he’s done with the Lions to date. The rising junior’s results in last year’s Division IV state meet weren’t spectacular in a vacuum, placing 84th overall with a time of 19:08. However, the fact that Corral was able to even qualify for the championship meet as a sophomore and place in the top-100 is impressive, and speaks to the young athlete’s potential with the Lions this fall. Don’t be surprised if Corral finds his way into the top-25 at this year’s championship meet, as he’s an up-and-coming athlete with the Lions.