Doug Christofis had some of the little things slip and it didn’t sit well.

It forced him to evaluate some parts of his life and he came to realize he had to let go of one his passions.

“Over 10 years I watched myself change and some of the things I don’t like,” he said. “No one else would ever notice, but I don’t like some of the things I saw. It is one of the reasons I made the hard decision. I had to let go of control and ego to try and find myself again.”

The 10-year Desert Vista girls cross country coach cited it along with spending more time with family as the main reasons for stepping down a few weeks ago.

“Sometimes you just have to do what you feel is right,” he said. “It’s hard to serve two masters. You second guess when you get hugs from your athletes and emails from parents asking you stay, but this is what I need to do at this time.”

Christofis built the Thunder into one of the state’s best as Desert Vista finished second in the Division I state meet three straight years until finishing third in the fall.

“I am so proud of all the girls who came through the program,” Christofis said. “In reality, I probably learned and experienced more from them than they did from me.”

Christofis hands the program over to Dr. Jeff Messer, who has spent the last six years at Xavier as a co-head coach with Dave Van Sickle.

The Gators won the last six big-school state titles and Messer said one of the programs the coaching staff had always worried about was Desert Vista.

“They were probably the most consistent program other than Xavier along with (Mesa) Mountain View and Highland,” Messer said. “There are some similarities (between DV and Xavier). We will focus on the process and have unfailing commitment in our training on a daily basis.”

Messer is a thinking man’s coach. He talks about the science of running and you’ll just nod your head in agreement.

“It is very interesting to talk to Jeff because he is going to give you something you never thought of before,” Christofis said. “He pulls things out of the air that most of us need written down and spelled out in front of us.”

Christofis said he walks away from the girls knowing that they will flourish under Messer’s advisement.

“This is someone I would want to coach my daughter when she gets up there,” Christofis said.

Messer, who was approved at the Feb. 6 Tempe Union High School District Governing Board meeting, serves as faculty in exercise physiology at Mesa Community College.

Messer holds a Ph.D. in exercise physiology from Arizona State University. His doctoral research program emphasized exercise biochemistry with a specific research focus in skeletal muscle mitochondrial bioenergetics.

In other words, he knows his stuff and is excited to take over a program full time for the first time.

“My focus is not only how we can compete at our very best, but being as close to perfect as we can,” he said. “We will be as physically and mentally prepared as possible.”

Christofis, who is married to Shawna, and has two children (Brooklyn, 10, and Bailee 8), will remain as the strength and conditioning coach for the Thunder athletic department.

“Almost every sport on campus comes through me in that weight room,” he said. “I am truly proud to be an extension of each of those programs, and something I needed to do to continue being part of Desert Vista.”

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.

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