CAMP VERDE - There is one thing you have to remember about most high school cross country runners: The more difficult and demanding the course, the more they like it.
Given that criteria, runners competing in Saturday's Camp Verde Invitational found the challenging hill-laden course very much to their liking.
Camp Verde sophomore Dominic Pittman put it this way following Saturday's race: "I think this course is one of the most challenging course any of these schools are going to run this year, and one of the harder ones in the state. Most of the athletes run golf courses for cross country. With the hills of this course this is truly cross country."
Talented Mingus sophomore Cody Wager agreed: "I thought it was a very challenging course."
And veteran senior Mingus runners Ryan Alexander and Zachary Peek, who have run cross country courses all over Arizona the past four years, said the Camp Verde course was exactly what cross country is supposed to be. "I loved the course," said Alexander. Added Peek: "This was a great course."
And while it was a challenging trek, the enthusiasm with which the runners greeted the course resulted in some impressive times. Camp Verde Coach Matt Malloy said that in most instances, the Cowboys' 5-kilometer course should be "the slowest course they will run all season." Surprisingly, he said, many runners turned in some of their best performances of the year.
While no team scores were tallied Saturday, Mingus' Meg Babcock turned in the best performance of the day, winning the girls' 10th-grade race with a 23:52 clocking.
A summary of all of Saturday's races with the top Camp Verde and Mingus performances is as follows:
Girls 9th grade race: Syrianna Nighthawk, Lylianne Blair and Payton Blair finished 4th, 5th and 7th overall for Camp Verde with Nighthawk's time of 26:33 leading the group.
Boys 9th grade race: Lucas Doerkson from Mingus finished 4th overall with a 20:53 performance, while John Valentine was 10th overall in 25:15.
Girls 10th grade race: In addition to Babcock's winning performance, Camp Verde's Faith Mendoza was 10th in the same race in an even 27-minutes.
Boys 10th grade race: Mingus sophomore Cody Wager finished 6th in 21:08, just one second ahead of Camp Verde's Levi Spillane. Cowboy teammate Jose Cazares was 12th in 22:39.
Girls 11th grade race: Camp Verde's Sadie Camarillo finished 5th in 24:07and Claudia Escobeda was 10th in 28:17.
Boys 11th grade race: Mingus' Jon Ulibarri continues to impress, finishing second overall in 20:20 while teammate Andrew Salas was 11th in 24:15.
Girls 12th grade race: Camp Verde's Elba Rodriguez was 9th overall in 36:24.
Boys 12th grade race: Mingus' Ryan Alexander finished third with a 19:34 clocking; Camp Verde runner Noah Lopez was 11th in 21:02; Mingus' Zack Peek and Dayson Motta finished 14th and 15th, respectively, with times of 22:05 and 22:11.
Desert Twilight Invitational
Tonight, both Mingus and Camp Verde will compete in the Desert Twilight Invitational at the Casa Grande Sports Complex.
The Desert Twilight meet is run under the lights, attracts teams from all over the Southwest, and has earned a reputation as one of the premier invitational events in the western United States.