The measure of success at Ahwatukee Foothills schools during the fall season seems to get higher with each passing school year.
It was evident in the fact that there was an underlying feeling of disappointment in some cases despite finishing as Division I state runners-up.
The sense of loss outweighed the level of accomplishment at the time, but in time it will all be celebrated as one of the best fall seasons area programs have ever seen.
The Desert Vista boys cross country team and Mountain Pointe badminton squad turned back time on their way to winning Division I state titles, while the Thunder’s Matt Liringis reduced some of the pain winning medalist honors in golf.
The Thunder boys were seen as contenders all season and showed signs of getting there, but then lost top runner Carter Macy to a leg injury.
It might have put the kibosh on most programs, but the Thunder has depth that can’t be topped and it proved true when Desert Vista won its first state title since 2008.
The Thunder won the meet with 101 points, while Highland (135) and Corona del Sol (147) rounded out the top three.
“I would run this group against anyone when it comes to character,” said Desert Vista coach Chris Hanson, who guided the Thunder to its fifth state title. “They could have given in at some point with all we had going on. They didn’t even know Tim, but they understood what he represents and they came through.
“I could not be more proud of this group.”
Desert Vista had great performances from Jacob Walimaa, who finished 10th among scoring runners at 16 minutes and 22.57, Ryan Dykstra (16th, 16:37.51), Alec Hoyt (22nd, 16:52.12), Tyler Bonebright (26th, 16:56.22), and Ryan Smith (27th , 16:57.03).
The Pride badminton team, seeded second, finished off an undefeated season and came through on its own expectations of winning the title, which was heightened in the regular season by easily handling top-seeded Xavier, closing out the match 5-2.
Kiyoko Hashimoto, Vi Koka, Sabrina Martinez, Geneva Heinkel, Larae Keso and Tegan Wambold used a total team effort to lead the program’s eighth state championship, the first since 2007.
Desert Vista’s Liringis won the individual state title in the golf tournament, an 11-under total at the Aguila Golf Course.
Mountain Pointe senior swimmer Clara Jenck won two individual titles, while the Pride’s doubles team of Martinez and Heinkel won the state doubles title.
Oh, so close
The Desert Vista boys golf team all but popped the cork, but what really popped was the Thunder’s balloon.
Desert Vista finished the final round 4-over and thought it was enough to win the school’s first state title at 1-over for the two-day event. Instead, Mesa Mountain View shot an unreal 10-under on the second day to finish even par for the tournament and beat the Thunder by one stroke.
It meant Desert Vista finished as state runner-up for the fourth straight year.
“I am proud with how hard they worked the last two weeks,” Thunder coach Paige Peterson said. “All season we talked about how important it is to finish your round and how every stroke matters. They didn’t forget that in any way.
“(Monday) they were great down the stretch. (Tuesday) some guys had a few bad holes down the stretch. It’s gonna happen. It just seems it happens to us at the worst possible times.”
Mountain Pointe’s football team understands that as the top-ranked Pride came out cold against third-seeded Hamilton and lost 31-16 in a game that was 24-0 early in the third quarter.
It wasn’t how the Pride hoped to perform in its first state title berth, but they believe it is just a sign of what is to come.
“Our kids didn’t quit and made a run at it,” Vaughan said. “We’ve had a great season and a young team. We have a lot of people coming back and we think Mountain Pointe has a great future.”
And the others
The Desert Vista football team went 9-3 in trying to defend its state title, while losing only to the state finalists (Hamilton twice and Mountain Pointe).
The Mountain Pointe girls volleyball team snuck into the state playoffs, but was knocked out in the first round while Desert Vista was eliminated in the second round.
The Mountain Pointe boys golf team showed some promise with some young players performing well, but the story was the play of senior Austin Fletcher, who finished fifth at state.
Desert Vista senior golfer Gerraldine Torrellas finished tied for 34th with an 83-87—170, while the Pride’s Lauren Blumears had a great second day, finishing 42nd overall with a 93-81—174, and teammate Madi Woodward shot 91-95—186.
The Pride’s badminton singles players Kiyoko Hashimoto and Vi Koka finished second and third at the state individual tournament.
The Thunder girls cross country team finished third behind Xavier and Mountain View, while Horizon Honor’s Mikaela Martin finished fifth in Division IV.
Add it all up and it’s one heck of a season. Matching it in the years to come will be hard, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be challengers.
• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.