After two years of chasing Yuma Cibola star Bernie Montoya, Tucson Salpointe’s Andy Truard and Tucson Rincon’s Ryan Silva, Corona del Sol’s Nate Rodriguez entered this season as the favorite to be the top runner in Arizona and did not disappoint.
Rodriguez won individual titles in each meet he entered, from the Sole Sports Invitational to start the year to the Division I state championships to end it. He was the individual champion at the Chandler Invitational, Ojo Rojo, Doug Conley, Desert Twilight, Tempe City and Division I, Section I meets. In each of those meets, teammate Ryan Normand was right behind him. More often than not, Marcus Wheeler placed third, giving Corona del Sol one of the best 1-2-3 trio in state history and leading them to the state championship.
Rodriguez, who has verbally committed to run for Iowa State next season, ran a personal best of 15 minutes, 8.60 seconds for a 5K course when he won the Desert Twilight title on Oct. 4, an improvement of more than 26 seconds from his time as a junior.
When injuries removed two of Desert Vista’s better runners in 2012, Xavier Esparza was put in a position to be a major contributor as a freshman and he helped the Thunder win the state title.
The late season experience pushed Esparza into the top role for the Thunder this year and the sophomore developed into one of the best in the Division as he finished sixth at state to earn an All-Tribune first-team selection.
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All-Tribune First Team
Name Yr. School Comment
Nathan Rodriguez Sr. Corona del Sol Closed out stellar career with individual, team state titles.
Ryan Normand Sr. Corona del Sol Had strong, steady year; always right behind teammate Rodriguez
Lucky Schreiner Jr. Campo Verde Div. II state runner-up by the narrowest of margins
Marcus Wheeler Jr. Corona del Sol Key ingredient for Aztecs’ title run; was 3rd in Div. I
Tyler Day Jr. Mesquite Put up strong challenge to Corona’s top 3; was 5th in Div. I
Xavier Esparza So. Desert Vista 6th in Div. I; was top runner for 2nd place team
Emmanuel Hidalgo Jr. McClintock 4th in Div. II, dropped more than two minutes from time at state in 2012
Coach of the year – Patrick Smith, Corona del Sol: The Aztecs were loaded this season, everyone in the state knew it, but Smith did not hide or hold out his top runners from any invitational this year. And the Aztecs delivered impressive performances in each and every meet, winning each invitational they were in. They did not fade down the stretch or falter at state, delivering Smith a well-earned state title. However, with five of his top seven being seniors, Smith’s abilities will really be put to test next season.
All-Tribune Second Team
Name Yr. School Comment
Samuel Biggs Sr. Mountain View Saved best for last race, placing 9th in Div. I
Jacob Toller So. Mountain View Toros most consistent runner, was Mesa City Meet champ
Jacob Walimaa Sr. Desert Vista Steady influence for Thunder, ran to 15th-place finish in Div. I
Seamus White Jr. Hamilton Started, ended season strong, was 16th in Div. I
Alec Hoyt Sr. Desert Vista Closed career with 18th-place effort at state meet
Cade Burks So. Perry Chandler City meet champion, medaled in Div. I
Brennan Barfuss Sr. Higley Ran best race at sectionals, clocking a 15:51 time
Apache Junction – Omar Ewert, Sr.; Basha – Nick Fox, Sr.; Campo Verde – Brandon Boys, Sr.; Corona del Sol – Blake Fischer, Sr.; Patrick Cullings, Sr.; Andrew Truswell, Sr.; Slade Sumners, Fr.; Desert Vista – Ben Davis, Jr.; Kyle Havriliak, Jr.; Gilbert Christian – Logan Pinkerton, So.; Highland – Weston Jones, Sr.; Logan Jones, Jr.; Carlin Resendez; McClintock - Michael Rojas, Jr.; Mountain View – Giovanni Waterman, So.; Luke Senftner, Sr.; Justin Decker, Jr.; Perry – Gunther Albrecht, Sr.; Red Mountain – Jacob Kretinger, Sr.; Ray Perkins II, Sr.; Skyline – Tim Otis, Jr.; Jaren Hofeling, Jr.