Desert Vista’s Brittany Tretbar (558), Lauren Owens (556) and Nicole Hicks find their way through the initial wave of runners at the starting line at the Doug Conley Invitational. Jason P. Skoda/AFN

The smiles were big enough and the trophy from winning the 36th annual Doug Conley Invitational might be taller than Brittany Tretbar.

Yet the Desert Vista girls cross country team's title at the invitational was a little bit hollow.

The team the Thunder has been chasing all season - nationally-ranked Phoenix Xavier - finished second, but didn't send out its best team with SATs being the same day and various other reasons.

Xavier didn't have a single runner in its lineup in the Conley that ran to the title at the Desert Twilight a week earlier when it beat the Thunder rather handily (50 to 109).

"We wanted to make a statement and we didn't do that," Desert Vista coach Doug Christofis said. "We won it, but Xavier didn't have their varsity and we didn't perform like I wanted us to at this point in the season."

For the record DV won the event with 76 points, with Xavier two points behind at 78. Gilbert Highland was third with 125 and Page was fourth at 126 in the 20-team field.

Tretbar led the Thunder by finishing fifth on the 3.1-mile course in 19 minutes, 30.51 seconds with Lauren Owens (19:55.05) also in the top 10 at eighth.

Megan Krupes (20:18.68), Yasmin Yacut (20:27.50) and Natalie Kraft (20:42.00) all finished in the top 25 for the Thunder, but some of the team's top performers all season had one of their worst efforts of the season.

"We go back and we talk about what happened," Christofis said. "We'll have a plan and come out of this better for it. The good thing is we have time to make changes if we have to."

Tretbar, one of just 12 runners to crack the 20-minute mark on Rolling Hills Golf Course's track, said the team has good unity and that will help them get it right before the end of the season.

"We are very tight," she said, mentioning the team's trips to Yoasis Frozen Yogurt. "We are together all of the time. The team is focusing on getting better. We know Xavier is the team to beat, but we are going to put the work in to get there."

Christofis isn't shy about bringing up Xavier to his runners. Some might shy away from focusing on trying to compete against a nationally-ranked team, but not this guy. He has made it clear that Xavier is the standard and that's where Desert Vista needs to get.

"I am a believer in shooting for the best," he said. "They clearly are the best so why not go after them. We may not get there, but if we want to win state that is what we have to do."

The Desert Vista boys team finished second to Phoenix Alhambra, 147-156, and coach Chris Hanson was fine with the effort.

"It's a tough meet to get going a little bit," Hanson said. "We are on fall break, SATs are on the same day and we just came off a big meet (the Twilight). We have about a month to get ready for state and this gives us a chance to look at some things. We had a JV kid win that race so it creates competition for those guys who didn't perform as well today as we'd like."

Ryan Maack and Ryan Dykstra finished 11th and 12th, respectively, with times of 16:37.43 and 16:39.40. Carter Macey (16:53.43) was the only other runner for Desert Vista to finish sub-17:00.

It was not a good day for Mountain Pointe no matter how it is broken down. The girls team didn't compete and the boys team finished 20th in the 23-team field.

"It was a very disappointing day," Mountain Pointe co-head coach David Allison said. "I know we are better than a lot of the teams that finished ahead of us and that is the frustrating part. You have to be able to fight through bad days, but we didn't show that ability."

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