By Raymundo Frasquillo
MORENCI – Morenci’s cross country teams head to Bisbee today (Sept. 20) for a fifth meet. Bisbee is at an elevation of 5,538 feet with a course mainly of hills.
The Wildcats have competed in the Payson Multi Meet (Sept. 6), Marana Mountain View’s Desert Solstice Invitational (Sept. 8), the Thatcher Invitational (Sept. 13), and Tucson’s Old Pueblo Invitational at Pima Community College (Sept. 16), with improvements in each outing.
Training around 4,500 feet elevation above sea level in Morenci, the Wildcats went up to 4,890-foot Payson, dropped to the 1,991-foot lower level of Marana, to 2,919-foot Thatcher, and to 2,389-foot Tucson.
“We weren’t gasping for air as much in Marana (as in Payson),” head coach Kenneth Lester said. “We’ve done better in the lower elevations.”
Morenci’s initial meet had teams that train at higher elevations, including meet winner Flagstaff (20 points), runner-up Keams Canyon Hopi (67), fourth place Whiteriver Alchesay (124), sixth place Chino Valley (169), and seventh place Lakeside Blue Ridge (214).
“There were a couple of really good packs in Payson we were able to see,” Lester said.
A total of 17 schools were represented, but only 15 teams scored with Morenci ending eighth (222), Thatcher 10th (258), San Carlos 14th (433), and Miami 15th (455). Host Payson and Camp Verde both had only two runners participate.
Individually, junior Jihad Norman of Hopi placed first with a time of 17 minutes, 45.7 seconds, followed by eight Flagstaff Eagles finishing in the top 10, each better than 18:24. The team score included the fastest five times.
Diminutive Morenci junior Vincent Cruz is the Wildcats front-runner, having turned in the quickest time for Morenci during the first two weeks of competition. He placed 35th of 201 runners in Payson with a clocking of 19:46,12th (18:49.8) of 164 juniors and seniors in Marana, fifth (19:21.09) of 49 runners in Thatcher, and sixth (19:40) of 71 runners in Tucson. His 2016 personal best was 18:11.6.
Junior Matthew Silvester was 42nd (20:03.8), sophomore Cameron Bailey-Garcia 54th (20:48.6), sophomore Dante DeAnda 70th (21:16.6), junior Anthony Chanez 76th (21:29.7), junior Gabriel Baca 83rd (22.00.4), sophomore Jordan Mares 84th (22.01.7), sophomore Phillip Provencio 123rd (23:26.3), junior Alex Garcia 128th (23:50.1), sophomore Dominic Gonzales 191st (32:51.9), and freshman TJ Lee 201st (36.53.9) in Payson.
In Marana, Silvester was 32nd (19:24.3), Chanez 47th (19:54.97), Baca 59th (20:05.2), Garcia 141st (22:25.49), and senior Skylar Howard 143rd (22:27.9). Morenci finished seventh with 284 points, behind Tucson Desert View (55), Gilbert Highland (76), Mesa Red Mountain (150), Gilbert Perry (171), Mesa Skyline (175), and Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor (178).
Bailey-Garcia was 32nd (19:36.58) of 163 freshmen and sophomores, Mares 30th (19:33.73), DeAnda 43rd (19:49.58), and Provencio 130th (21:36.2).
In Thatcher, Mares was 11th (19:47.09), DeAnda 15th (20:09.07), Bailey-Garcia 21st (20:35.00), Silvester 23rd (20:44.08), Chanez 25th (21:01.01), and Baca 27th (21.11.02). The Wildcats were fourth behind Safford, San Carlos, and Thatcher. Benson, Fort Thomas, Miami, and Tombstone were also there.
In Tucson, Mares was eighth (19:50), Silvester 10th (20.13), DeAnda 15th (20:39), Bailey-Garcia 24th (20:59), Baca 27th (21.30), Howard 39th (22:26), Garcia 42nd (23:01), Provencio 43rd (23:30), Gonzales 66th (30:23), and Lee 71st (39.14). Morenci was runner-up with 63 points to Safford’s 56. Eight schools were represented.
Senior Paige Morales was 14th (23:19.68) of 167 runners in Payson, fifth (25:21.06) of 39 in Thatcher, and fifth (24:29) of 55 in Tucson. Her 2016 season best was 21:16.1.
Sophomore Desiree Babb clocked in at 26:41.10 (64th) in Payson, 25:42.4 (59th of 155 freshmen and sophomores) in Marana, 27:43.02 (17th) in Thatcher, and 27:14 (16th) in Tucson. Her personal best in 2016 was 23:35.
Senior Alex Chee was timed at 27:56.44 (64th) in Payson, 25:56.1 (64th of 162 juniors and seniors) in Marana, 28:58.04 (17th) in Thatcher, and 28:36 (21st) in Tucson. Her personal best for 2016 was 26:07.
Sophomore Iliana Molina’s times were 31:27.28 (87th) in Payson, 29:27.45 (142nd) in Marana, and 32:38 (40th) in Tucson.
Sophomore Ravyn Tison crossed the finish line at 34:50.01 (140th) in Payson and 33.37 (45th) in Tucson.