Mingus takes on Northern Arizona’s best in Four Corners Invite

It’s back to Flagstaff’’s famed Buffalo Park for the Mingus Union High School cross country team this weekend. It’s also one of the best early season tests the team could ask for. The Sept. 16 Four Corners Invitational is a showcase of the best runners in Northern Arizona and the powerhouse reservation teams that traditionally have dominated the sport.

For Mingus, it also will be a huge learning curve for the young runners who have emerged as the pack leaders for the Marauders.

In last weekend’s Ray Wherely XC Invite at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, it was a trio of Mingus freshmen who made the biggest impact for the Marauders.

“Our superstar freshman, Jehiah Rogers, ran fastest out of all the boys, a 20:30 for his first race ever, which I was very , very pleased with,” said Marauder Coach Justine Sparks.

Rogers’ 20:30 clocking over the 5-kilometer course placed the freshman runner in the 39th slot in the 87-runner field. Two other Mingus freshmen, Riley Bliss and Henry Durnez, finished 52nd and 54th overall with respective times of 21:06 and 21:36.

Junior team captain Cody Wager finished 56th in the race in 21:44.

Wager, said Coach Sparks, “wasn’t very pleased with that, as it was slower than last weekend, and about two minutes slower than his PR, but it was about a 50-second course PR.”

The boys varsity race was won by Prescott High School senior Matthew Bradley, who forged an 8-second win over Brophy Prep’s Drew Burns with a 17:00.75 clocking. It was Bradley’s second win in as many weeks as he also was the class of the field in Flagstaff’s Peaks Invitational. He has emerged as the best distance runner in Northern Arizona so far this season. Statewide, according to Arizona athletic.net, Bradley ranks among the top 45 runners in Arizona.

In the boys’ novice race at the Wherely XC Invite, Mingus freshman Adam Hines finished 36th in the 110-man field with a 22:41 clocking. Marauder sophomore John Valentine was 46th overall in 23:32 and sophomore Adrian Couyancy was 93rd in 28:47.

The Mingus girls did not compete last weekend.

American girls running tsunami

Without fail for about 15 years now, American high school teams are turning out elite girls runners in staggering numbers. That’s one of the reasons American women in last year’s Olympic Games and this year’s world championships walked away with historic medal hauls. The talent level, for example, in the PAC-12 conference among female cross country runners -- and on the track at every distance from 800 to 10,000 meters -- is such that almost any race is akin to being a U.S. Olympic Trials final.

Arizona has been as much a part of this girls running evolution as any state in America with such talent as Dani Jones (Desert Vista), Allie Schadler (Rio Rico), Jessica Tonn, Sarah Penney, Sarah Fakler and Tessa Weiss (all from Xavier Prep) and Mountain Pointe’s Sally Meyerhoff.

The tradition lives on this year in Arizona. Three athletes in particular have shown themselves to be quite capable of competing on the national stage.

Desert Vista senior Haley Wolf and Rio Rico junior Samantha Schadler went 1-2 in the prestigious Desert Solstice XC Invite Sept. 8 with respective times of 18:07 and 18:48 over a 3.2-mile course.

Also on Sept. 8 at the Cool Breeze Invitational in California, Chandler junior Morgan Foster finished second against a loaded field with an impressive 17:21 clocking over 3 miles. Anaheim Canyon senior Sara Leonard won that race in 17:10.

Foster also has the state’s best time over the traditional 5-kilometer distance with an 18:23 clocking Sept. 2 in the Chandler Invitational.

Arizona boys

Statewide among boys, Mountain View Mesa senior Carson Klepinger has the best 5K (3.1 miles) time in Arizona at 16:05. Hamilton senior David Nelson and Campo Verde junior Rylan Stubbs have run 15:49 and 16:00 over 3.2 miles at Desert Solstice. For an even 3 miles, Page junior Bowen Martin leads the state with a 15:14 clocking and senior teammate Dorian Daw is No. 2 statewide at 15:46.

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