Cross country coaches might have different approaches in the way they go about it, but preparation leading into the season is pretty much the same.

Build endurance, stretch out the mileage and hit the regular season running so to speak.

One area coach, Desert Vista girls coach Doug Christofis, believes the difference comes in forging team unity.

"Training wise we all pretty much do the same thing," Christofis said. "Sometimes you have the talent and the formula you having been using for years works. You do what you can with the team you have, but in order to get everyone to buy in, you have to do some other things."

It is why he always takes the team to Prescott just prior to the season for a cross country camp. It includes renting cabins, team bonding exercises and a rigorous serious of unique exercises/workouts and going through obstacle courses to challenge the runners to the core.

"We have them carrying sand bags and flipping tires," Christofis said. "It's all about building team camaraderie and mental toughness. We want the team to build that unity and be willing to bleed for each other."

The Thunder had that kind of commitment last season as the girls finished second in the state behind nationally-ranked Phoenix Xavier.

The team brings back last season's top three runners as senior Megan Kupres (sixth at state); sophomore Jenna Maack (eighth) and sophomore Brittany Tretbar (15th) lead the way, while Erin Andrew-Sharer (48th) will also be counted on.

"You always want to think big and that's what we are doing," Christofis said. "If we could be right there with Xavier that would be wonderful. We are going to do our best to get there. Ideally, we will be in the top three and make a push for even higher."

Mountain Pointe is coming off an eighth place finish at state and brings back a strong contingent.

It starts with sophomore Cera Hassinan, who finished 13th last season, and senior Lindsey Schader, who was 24th as they both were sub-20 minutes at the state meet.

"This is our third season with the senior class and there is a comfort level there," co-head coach David Allison said. "We expect to make a push to the top three and be in the mix with DV, Highland and Xavier. It's a good mix of experience and youth and they understand the kind of expectations we have this season."

Other top runners include seniors Ellen Hill, Ashley Cleveland and newcomer Chelsea Howard, a track athlete taking on cross country for the first time. Freshman Francesca Olguin should fit somewhere in the top five as well.

On the boy's side, Mountain Pointe, which is also coached by Heather Kiser, should be in position to better last season's 14th placement at the state meet.

Seniors Connor Donnelly and Victor Iniguez didn't crack the top 50 at state last season, but Allison has seen huge strides.

"I think they have the potential to grow into top 15 runners," Allison said. "It's a matter of how much they want to push each other. Victor loves to run long distances and Connor has shown he can run in the low 16s."

Senior Jake Sciacca and juniors Tommy Bello and Daniel Riley can make a case for the next set of runners while junior Jalen Armstrong and Avi Dasgupta are among the runners providing depth.

"We will have to have a pack mentality for the group behind the top two," Allison said. "If we can get everyone under 17 by the end of the year then we are going to be doing pretty good."

The Desert Vista boys were a senior-laden squad last season leaving the Thunder to break in some new runners. They finished fourth in the state last season and won it the year before that.

Ryan Dykstra, Trey Kennedy and Ryan Maack, all of whom have state experience, should lead the way.

Coach Chris Hanson said the team's strength will be its depth, but added some of that depth will be inexperienced.

With the difficult schedule the Thunder have each year; the team will be prepared by the time the end of the season meets come around.

The way state is being conducted has changed as the state has gone from six different state meets down to four. Teams will qualify out of sectionals instead of automatically qualifying for the state meet.

"There are a lot of positives coming out that," Christofis said. "We will definitely have a true champion."

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.