Wildcats head to Payson for initial cross country meet

Photo By Raymundo Frasquillo: Morenci’s cross country participants train together on different courses throughout town, some paved and some not, and races against the clock in meets.

By Raymundo Frasquillo

MORENCI – After nearly a month of officially running the town with improvement by racing the clock, Morenci’s cross country teams will face their first challenge of the 2017 season, a meet in Payson today (Sept. 6).

Photo By Raymundo Frasquillo: From left, senior Paige Morales and juniors Gabriel Baca and Anthony Chanez run some laps around the all-weather Lawson Stadium track. Morales is the girls team’s highest returning finisher at last season’s state meet while non-state meet participants Baca and Chanez are expected to be in Morenci’s top five all season.

The Wildcats return five of seven runners who helped Morenci place 20th of 27 teams competing in the state meet last season.

Heading the group is junior Vincent Cruz, placing 93rd of 198 runners with a clocking of 19 minutes, 15 seconds. His personal best was 18:11.6.

The others are sophomore Jordan Mares, 121st with 19:51 (personal best 19:14.0); sophomore Dante DeAnda, 124th with 19:53 (18:49.0); sophomore Cameron Bailey-Garcia, 140th with 20:16 (19:34), and junior Matthew Silvester, 164th with 21:16 (18:41.0).

Four other returnees competing for varsity slots are juniors Gabriel Baca (19:23.6) and Anthony Chanez (19:17.0), senior Skylar Howard (20:29.5), and junior Alex Garcia (21:39.0).

First-time runners include sophomores Austin Hoben and Dominic Gonzalez, and freshman TQ Lee.

Morenci Girls

Three of seven girls are back from the squad finishing 13th of 23 teams at the 2016 state meet.

Senior Paige Morales was 38th of 169 finishers with 22:28 and a season best 21:16.1; sophomore Desiree Babb, 111th with 24:54 and personal best 23:35; and senior Alex Chee, 134th with 26:07 and personal best 26:07.

Unproven sophomores Iliana Molina and Ravyn Tison make up the rest of the team.