COTTONWOOD - It's a rebuilding year for Mingus Union High School cross country.
Fortunately for first-year Coach Katie Wolff, there are some solid blocks in place to begin that process.
"We keep getting new kids every day," said Wolff. "We have 10 boys out now and the hope is that we will be competitive at state."
On the girls' side, Wolff said the team has five runners and she is hopeful more athletes will find their way to cross country practice soon.
Wolff comes to Mingus from Washington State, where she competed in cross country as a high school runner and also served as a volunteer track and field coach for the Ione, Washington, high school team.
For the boys, Wolff said seniors Ryan Alexander and Zack Peek have emerged as the team leaders. Alexander consistently leads the pack in team runs, said Wolff, while Peek has a knack for building team camaraderie.
Both Alexander and Peek competed in last year's state cross country championship race.
Alexander twice ran 5-kilometer courses in less than 18 minutes last season, including a seasonal best of 17:29 at the prestigious Desert Twilight Invitational in Casa Grande. He finished 24th in the AIA Division III Section I race last year and was the 58th finisher in the state championship race.
"Ryan definitely pulls away from everyone on our long runs," said Wolff. "He does a good job of hustling everyone and getting everyone excited about our workouts."
Peek likewise ran in last year's state championships. "He is working toward a NAVY ROTC scholarship," Wolff said of Peek, "so he is very focused on his overall fitness and has a strong core."
Mingus senior Tyler Lewis is also back and Wolff said juniors Jon Ulibarri and Andrew Salas both show strong potential.
For the girls' team, senior Rachel Valentine, junior Hannah DeVore and sophomore Meg Babcock all bring solid experience to the Marauder squad. All three competed in last year's state championship race.
Babcock, said Coach Wolff, brings a solid base of summer mileage to the new season. She had a best 5K time last season of 21:27.
DeVore is best known for her exploits on the track, where she was one of the better 300-meter hurdle specialists in the state. A junior, DeVore has great range. She runs both the 100- and 300-meter hurdles in track as well as both relay events. But in the fall, she's shown solid cross country credentials with a 20:57 5K PR in last year's Desert Twilight race.
Valentine has tons of experience, having run for both the Mingus program as well as state powerhouse Desert Vista, She was part of a gold-medal winning 4X800 relay in track as a freshman and has also competed in state championship races at 1600 and 3200 meters.
In cross country, she recording a 5K PR of 20:08 in 2014 while running for Desert Vista, according to athletic.net. Last year, she had a best time of 20:51.
Other runners on the girls' team include senior Jasmin Monge, who is a sprinter for the track team in the spring, and senior Joy Peck.
The Mingus runners will take to the starting line for their first race of the season Sept. 3 in the Peaks Invitational. The 5-kilometer race will take place at Flagstaff's Buffalo Park.
Saturday, Sept. 3 @ Peaks Invitational, Buffalo Park, Flagstaff
Saturday, Sept. 10 @ Ray Wherley Invitational, Embry Riddle University
Saturday, Sept. 17 @ Four Corners Invitational, Buffalo Park, Flagstaff
Saturday, Sept. 24 @ Camp Verde Invitational, Camp Verde
Friday Sept. 30 @ Desert Twilight Invitational, Casa Grande
Saturday, Oct. 8, Bud Davis Invitational, Tuba City
Wednesday, Oct. 19, Yavapai County Multiple, Embry Riddle University
Friday, Oct. 28, Sectional Championships
Friday, Nov. 5, State Championships
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