A second-place team finish for the present, and yet another glimpse of the Desert Vista girls cross country program’s future to boot.
In all, Saturday was a pretty good day for head coach Doug Christofis and his Thunder girls team, which finished second overall as a group in the prestigious Doug Conley Invitational, held at Tempe’s Rolling Hills Golf Course.
PHOTO SLIDESHOW: More photos from Doug Conley Invitational With just six runners competing – most every other team had seven runners in the varsity race competing – Desert Vista still managed to card a solid runner-up finish to Phoenix Pinnacle in what has long been considered the primary tune-up for next month’s state meet. The Thunder carded 146 total points to the Pioneers 131.
Christofis said his team’s second-place finish is even more remarkable considering that the group may not have been at 100 percent this week. The Desert Vista team does hill training most Wednesdays, and the coaching staff didn’t waver from that last week, even with Conley on top.
“The girls were actually complaining about sore legs,” he said, adding that having the meet at Rolling Hills this season (Tempe’s Kiwanis Park, under renovation, has been the race’s regular home) was a treat. “It was wide-open. Just a great job by the organizers here.”
While it was notable that Phoenix Xavier, the defending Class 5A-I girls state champions, chose not to compete at Conley this season (the Desert Boys, defending class 5A-I state champs themselves, also chose not to attend Conley), Christofis said that his team’s ability to place three runners in the top 15 and four competitors in the top 35 – more than any other program for either category – is proof that The Thunder are right where they need to be.
Individually for Desert Vista, Megan Kupres, a junior, and Jenna Maack, a freshman, paced the way for the Thunder, finishing 10th (19:13) and 11th (19:17), respectively.
Christofis said there isn’t much coaching anyone can do with athletes like Maack who come in at such a young age, ready to compete at such a high level.’
“As a freshman, she has just shocked us as a coaching staff,” he said. “Sometimes as coaches, the ego comes in and we think we make these kids, but that’s not the case – especially with Jenna.”
Christofis said that Kupres and Maack have rotated throughout the season as the Thunder’s top finisher at various meets, something he cites as a testament to the student-athlete’s will to compete with each other in the scope of the team’s overall goals.
“One of the biggest things, honestly, is the lack of selfishness,” Christofis said. “That’s the thing, for the kids to have joy – true joy – for another girl on their team who is competing with them and is getting better, as opposed to saying, 'Darn it, she beat me. I don’t want her to beat me.’ I think if you can develop that unselfishness – true unselfishness, that’s truly important.”
Maack said that the team’s older veterans were accepting her abilities from day one.
“I’ve never really been the first or second on a team,” she said. “This year I’m able to see what I can do. It’s been really fun running for DV. I just love them all.”
Megan Dudzinski wasn’t far behind her teammates, crossing the finish line at 19:23 for 14th overall. Brittany Tretbar finished 33rd overall at 20:01, and Alison Connell rounded out the Desert Vista scoring with a 78th place finish (20:55). Erin Andrews Sharer and Carissa McAfee rounded out the Thunder’s varsity race entrants.
In the non-varsity race, Desert Vista finished third overall, led by a third-place finish by Jessica Economou and ninth-place finisher Reyann Rivera.