Runners enjoy change of pace
Jim Bostwick always enjoys taking his Mingus Union cross country team to the Ray Wherley Invitational in Prescott.
The yearly event held at Embry-Riddle University draws about 500 runners from 50 different high schools and uses the unique "Las Vegas" format. Instead of one main race for boys and one for girls, all seven team members from each school get to run in their own heats – with each time counting toward overall team standings..
"Usually, we go to meets and score as a traditional meet – take your top five runners out of seven, and the low score wins," Bostwick said. "This is great for the kids because they get to run against runners of equal abilities. This gives them a chance to place, whereas in other races a kid at the back ... would have no chance to medal."
The Mingus boys took full advantage of format in last Saturday's invitational — all seven collected medals for a top 10 finish in their respective heats. The Marauders placed eighth overall – fourth-best among the 4A schools.
Junior Colton Noble took ninth in the "number one" race, finishing the 3.1-mile course in 17.55. Junior Cory Romine earned eighth in the number two race with a time of 18:00. Senior Neal Blackford finished the number three race in 19:09, good enough for 10th.
Sophomore Peter Valencia placed seventh in the fourth flight with a 19:35 run. Junior Taylor Duke took seventh in the fifth flight in 19:40. Junior Greg Burnett nabbed ninth at number six in 20:56, and freshman Kellan O'Connor took 10th in the number seven race in 22:08.
Freshman Shane Logan barely missed a medal in the junior varsity race, clocking a time of 21:36.
"This is one of the most fun teams I have ever had a chance to work with," Bostwick said of the boys. "We have no superstars, but rather just a group of guys who work very hard every day. This was epitomized by the fact that each kid placed from seventh to 10th in each race."
All four Mingus runners who participated in the Ray Wherley last year – Noble, Romine, Valencia and Blackford – improved their times from 2000. Blackford cut an amazing 1:42 off his run from last season.
"Also on a bright note, the boys cut their top five gap down to 1:45 from their previous season best of 2:02," Bostwick said. "This time is the key to a good team. The (meet) winner, (5A) Mesa Mountain View, had a gap of 57 seconds.
"Our goal is to have our gap down to one minute by the end of the season in order for us to be competitive in the Grand Canyon Region."
Desert Mountain, another 5A school, placed second overall on the boys side, followed by Mountain Pointe (5A), Prescott (4A), Brophy Prep (5A), Chaparral (4A), Sunrise Mountain (4A), Mingus (4A), Cactus Shadows (4A) and Thunderbird (4A).
Mingus didn't field a full team for the girls meet, instead choosing to put five of its new runners in the JV race.
Freshman Tera Stutheit paced the Lady Marauder JVs with a time of 21:50. Freshman Annie Brubaker clocked a time of 22:12. Both Mingus competitors cut more than a minute off times recorded a week before the meet.
Freshman Shelly Principe (24:40) and sophomore Diana Apresa (25:51) competed in their first race of the year. Senior Harmony Chaikin finished in 28:55. "All outstanding efforts," Bostwick said.
All three Mingus varsity girls picked up medals for top 10 finishes. Junior Ariel Latimer placed third in the number one race with a time of 16:00 — an improvement of 40 seconds from last year's performance over the 2.8-mile course.
Sally Meyerhoff from Mountain Pointe and Jen Klein from Prescott – last year's 5A and 4A state champs respectively – were the only runners to beat Latimer. Meyerhoff cruised to a 15:21 finish. Klein came in at 15:42.
"Ariel will be looking to close the gap on Jen in the next few weeks," Bostwick said. "Eighteen seconds is not insurmountable."
Kiera O'Connor took seventh place in the number two race in 17:45. Abbie Swavee earned ninth in the number three race in 19:00. Both Marauders improved upon last year's times.
"All in all a great day for the Marauders," Bostwick said.
Mingus will break from competition until Sept. 29. The Marauders will host their only meet of the season next Saturday morning at Clarkdale-Jerome School.