Born to run
Luke Davis/The Explorer, Mountain View's cross country squads stride toward a repeat of last year's first- and second-place 5A-II state championship finishes.

The 2007 cross-country season was near-perfect for the Mountain View High School Mountain Lions, with the boys’ team winning the 5A-II state championship, and the girls’ squad placing second.

The boys’ team was prolific, but four top-25 state finishers have graduated.

“This is a rebuilding year,” said head coach Adam Vargas. “The team will be looking towards Ray Solis, our current top runner.”

Hopeful as Vargas stands for Solis’ efforts, which placed 27th at state last year, he sees a bright future for the unseasoned boys’ team. The Mountain Lion girls, however, fare better as they return three of the top five athletes from a dominant team that placed seven runners in the top 15 at state in 2007.

“The girls should be one of the top teams at the 5A-II level,” said Vargas.

Senior Brittany Vaughn, who placed third place at state last season, figures as the Mountain Lions’ top cat on the trail.

“This is my last year, and I’d like to make it a memorable one,” said Vaughn, a member of Mountain View’s 2005 first-ever girls’ state champion team.

Other returning talent includes sophomore Kerri Lenihan, who placed ninth last year, and junior Emily Bartz, who placed 11th.

With talent on both sides and experience gracing the ladies, Vargas could be focused solely on championships. But the coach values the discipline his athletes gain from their sport.

“Running in Arizona is especially hard,” Vargas said. “Kids must contend with the heat, and getting up at 5:30 a.m. during the summer to train.”

While pacing long distances in 100 degree-plus temperatures and/or at the crack of dawn might seem like a particularly vicious form of torture to most, Vargas’s athletes have bonded through the trials.

“I set about five alarms every morning in the summer just to make sure I get up and get here,” said Ray Solis with a grin.

“I love seeing everyone’s faces in the morning,” said Vaughn, miming her teammates’ morning jog that resembled a zombie shuffling across a tile floor.

“But there’s just something about running,” added Lenihan, with a smile and small shoulder shrug.

Other area high school teams to watch:

Ironwood Ridge:

The Nighthawks are the squad best positioned to challenge Mountain View for both Northwest-side and 5A-II supremacy. The girls’ team finished first at state last season, riding the success of frosh phenom Sarah Miville, who ran to a first-place individual championship. Junior Allison Crawford and senior Sam Winter, fourth and eighth statewide, also return. The boys’ team took third at state, and will look to seniors Joey Robinson and Anthony Li to lead.

Catalina Foothills:

Senior Tucker Wiedenkeller and junior Rafael Gomez return from the Falcons’ state runner-up team. The duo finished 10th and 14th, respectively. The women’s team finished fifth at state, but graduated its core of top seniors, leaving sophomore Isabel Diamond as the sole remaining top-20 finisher.

Canyon Del Oro:

The Dorado boys’ team finished eighth at state; veteran competitors include senior Andrew Palmer and sophomore Caleb Bruno, who will attempt this year’s return to form.

Pusch Ridge:

The Lion boys placed tenth in the 1A/2A state tournament last season, and will bring back 20th-ranked senior Cody Kirk. The girls team finished 11th and top runner Brennan Smith, a sophomore, will try to improve from a 21st place finish.

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