Doug Christofis has an edge about him.
It starts with the tattoos, and the large biceps help, but it is more than appearance. It's about his attitude toward training.
It doesn't matter if it is when he is in his role of strength and conditioning coach for Desert Vista or as the head coach of the girls cross country coach, Christofis brings an intensity that works in the weight room and the final stages of a 3.1-mile run.
That approach definitely pushes his runners to an elite level as the Thunder has finished state runners-up in five of his nine seasons.
Expect this season to end in similar fashion as Desert Vista will be one of the few teams to have a chance to catch nationally-ranked and defending state champion Xavier.
The Thunder bring back six quality runners, led by Brittany Tretbar, and will add an accomplished freshman in Danielle Jones, who finished in the top five nationally at the Junior Olympics in the 800 and 1,500.
"It could potentially be a great year," Christofis said. "Xavier, Highland and (Mesa) Mountain View are all very tough."
Behind Tretbar, who finished third in Division I with a time of 19 minutes and 05.30 seconds in 2010, are Reyann Rivera, Lauren Owns, Nicole Hicks, Natalie Kraft and Jenna Maack.
Kraft, a junior, finished 27th overall with a time of 20:22.02 and Owens, a sophomore, was 45th after clocking a time of 20:45.22 at Cave Creek Golf Course at the state meet.
Mountain Pointe is coming off a season where it placed seventh, but return only two of its seven runners who placed at the state meet.
It helps that one of them is last year's No. 1 in junior Cera Hassinan, while junior Jessica Riley should be heavily counted on as well.
Hassinan finished 18th at the state with a time of 20:02.58 so a sub-20 time is certainly in reach this season, while Riley was 78th overall after clocking a time of 21:39.32.
Hassinan showed some promise in the distance runs during the track season with six top 10 finishes in the 1,600 run, including a season best time of 5:26.77.
Horizon Honors, which finished fifth in the state in 2009, has had trouble getting athletes out for the sport in recent years.
As of now the Eagles won't have enough competitors to field a team for the state meet, but has one of the state's best in Division IV as sophomore Mikaela Martin hopes to improve on last season's 19th place finish with a time of 21:42.14.
Coach Lura Beets said while the overall numbers are down those who are out for the team have shown positive signs.
"All of my first time cross country runners this year are dedicated," she said.
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