Mingus cross country team size balloons in Moncibaez’s first season

Sophomore Jehiah Rogers (left) and senior Nick Lodico run around the third lagoon at Dead Horse Ranch State Park during practice Friday afternoon. VVN/James Kelley

Sophomore Jehiah Rogers (left) and senior Nick Lodico run around the third lagoon at Dead Horse Ranch State Park during practice Friday afternoon. VVN/James Kelley

Mingus Union cross country heads into the season with a bigger team to go along with their new head coach.

After having about eight runners last year, this year the Marauders have 24.

“Great group of kids, numbers are great and they’re a great support group for one another,” Mingus head coach Dave Moncibaez said.

The Mingus Union teacher and first-year head coach said he didn’t really know what’s behind the rise in runners.

“I just know that by teaching there I see a lot of these kids and I have them in a lot of my classes, especially in PE and it’s kind of like ‘you guys should come out for cross country,’” Moncibaez said. “A lot of times when the kids come out for school they feel like it’s too late to go out for a sport and it really isn’t. On my end it’s just ‘come on out, it’s not too late’ and then here they come. A lot of that is just getting that word out and pretty much telling them ‘it’s not too late,’ so that helped out too.”

The Marauders also feature a large group of rookie runners.

“We’re looking at a big freshmen class, which is great because they’re all runners and athletes of other sports, too, and they’re a great support system for another,” Moncibaez said. “Freshmen see more freshmen out here and they feel a little bit more comfortable and they kind of spread the word, so it helps out.”

The Marauders feature seven solid varsity runners on the boys side and senior Meg Babcock leads the way on the girls’ side. She only ran one cross country race last year but a few months ago at the state track and field championships she won the 400 meters, finished third in the

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First-year head Coach Dave Moncibaez touts a strong freshmen class on the year’s Marauder squad. On the girls side, leading the frosh brigade are twins Claire and Aubrey Peterson. VVN/James Kelley

800 meters and anchored the 4x400-meter relay team, which took third.

“Meg’s really impressed me. She’s always been a great runner,” Moncibaez said. “She’s very positive, especially being that mentor for the younger kids. We have a lot of high expectations for her and I know she does too and she’s getting up to that level. She is confident in herself and is ready to get out there and win some races.”

Last year the Marauders had one runner make it to the state meet, then-senior Hannah DeVore.

So far this season agreeable weather has meant the Marauders have gotten a lot of hard work in have shown steady improvement.

“We’ve had a lot of coverage with the clouds and the storms. We’ve been very fortunate in regards to getting that coolness,” Moncibaez said. “So they’ve been working hard. I’m really impressed with this group. They’re coming together, pushing each other. Tough workouts for sure and they’re getting through it and I can see that progression definitely happening now.”

The Marauders start the season this week at the Payson Multi-Invitational Wednesday and then on Saturday they head to the Peaks XC Invite at Flagstaff’s Buffalo Park.

They have nine meets during the regular season but none in Verde Valley this year.

“This Wednesday, we’re in Payson and that’s kind of an open meet. There’s no divisions. It’s a free for all and so they run there and then we hit The Peaks meet, which is next Saturday and that’s going to be a tough race, it has a lot of people in our region, Tuba City, Flagstaff, Coconino, so that’s going to be a tough, tough meet. But it’s a good experience for the kids and to see where they’re at and where we need to grow and what we need to improve on,” Moncibaez said. “So we’re excited and now that meets are starting, it’s gonna be a little bit more fun than just practicing every day. We have something to look forward to at the same time.”

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