Monika Kawski entered last week’s Class 1A-2A state cross country championship meet with, by all accounts, reasonable expectations.
She had never run on the course used for the state meets – North Phoenix’s Cave Creek Golf Course. The Horizon Honors junior and teammate Shaila Homan didn’t have a full set of teammates on the course like most of the other top competitors – only each other, who qualified to run as individuals.
And, despite being a junior at Horizon and a soccer player at heart, Kawski was still a rookie to this whole cross country thing, with the state meet capping her first season competing in the sport.
But with a time of 21:12.92, Kawski still broke the meet’s top three finishers, trailing the time of eventual winner Chelena Betoney of Valley Sanders by 96 seconds, and second-place finisher Andrea Klimowski of Flagstaff Northland Prep by just 22 seconds.
“It’s higher than I thought I’d finish. I was trying to go for the top 20 at least,” Kawski said, adding that it wasn’t the best time she’s ever recorded, but that she was happy with the result considering how challenging the hill-laden golf course was. “It was a little intimidating. I know it’s easier to finish in the top if you have a team. It’s still good that we got to go to state as individuals.”
Of the 96 competitors, Homan, just a freshman herself, finished 48th overall with a time of 48:32.37
Having Homan, the Horizon boys team (which finished fifth overall in the boys team competition), and a handful of parents on hand was a boost, Kawski said.
“We had our guys team there, and lots of the parents came along too to cheer on the team,” Kawski said, adding that the group offered her plenty of support as well.
A soccer player at heart, Kawski said that running in general has to be part of her makeup. But she added that distance running in particular, save for an exception or two, isn’t something that’s all that big in her family.
“I’ve always liked running I guess, especially doing soccer. But neither of my parents are long-distance runners,” she said. “My aunt on my mom’s side runs marathons, but that’s it.”
Kawski said, in addition to soccer at Horizon, she plans to run next year as a senior too, even if her chances at winning the title might be tough; the defending champion, Betoney, is just a freshman.
“Next year I’m really going to try to go to state and go against that girl and try and beat her,” Kawski said.
On the boy’s side, in helping the Eagles to that fifth-place team finish, Horizon junior Mike Homan finished 22nd overall with a time of 17:47.61, followed by teammates Brad Fullman (26th), Matthew Richardson (46th), David Wikoff (63rd), Galen Geislinger (72nd), Matthew Schian (83rd) and Brendan Berry (90th).