Sammy Van Alstine doesn’t really view himself as a long-distance runner. He prefers the shorter races in track – the 800 meters and 1,500/mile.
“I’m more of a middle-distance runner. I don’t really like the longer races. I never liked the distance,” he said. “I definitely have an extra gear for the shorter races. I can sprint.”
That extra gear served him well Saturday in the Division I state cross-country championships over the 5,000-meter distance he doesn’t really like. Running step-for-step with nationally ranked Leo Daschbach of Highland and Desert Vista teammate Lee Nasewytewa, Van Alstine turned to his speed and pulled away in the closing 800 meters for the big-school individual crown.
Van Alstine clocked 16 minutes, 3.08 seconds, three seconds ahead of Daschbach, who is ranked sixth in the U.S. with a best of 14 minutes, 52 second for 5,000 meters, and six seconds ahead of third-place Nasewytewa.
Van Alstine and Nasewytewa lifted the Thunder to their fifth consecutive Division I state team title and their 10th overall despite losing seven seniors from last season’s championship team.
“We still had some decent runners,” Van Alstine said. “As the season went on, people started performing and doing really well. We were on top of it, and everybody raced their heart out at state.
“Certainly we were shooting to keep the streak alive. At the beginning of the season, even though we’d lost lot of good runners, we thought we still had a chance. Our coaches had a plan. Working on speed, working on hills was a major part of it. We had seven kids working hard in practice to do this.”
All the talk was about Daschbach, and had the Highland ace been healthy he might have shown why. Dashbach was ailing and on antibiotics.
Van Alstine said he didn’t know that before the race, but he had a plan for him.
“My strategy was maybe if I just sit on him and use my knowledge of the course and just use my speed to pass him at the end maybe it would work in my favor,” Van Alstine said. “I’ve been going to the gym a lot building up my strength. It’s good to have core strength.
“I couldn’t have executed it any better. When I passed him I thought, ‘Don’t look back, just go.’ I was gunning for him. I’m just glad it’s over with.”
Both the Desert Vista boys and Division I girls runner up Chandler had taken it easy a week earlier in their sectional races, giving hope to others that the team titles might be up for grabs.
But when the gun was fired Saturday at the hilly 5K course at Cave Creek Golf Course in Phoenix, the Thunder boys and Wolves girls made their points about which teams are the best.
In the boys race, Desert Vista scored 31 points, 10 points ahead of runner up Highland.
In the Division I girls race, Katy Clausen’s 10th-placerun in 19:46.66 helped Desert Vista to a fourth-place team finish.
Van Alstine likely will see Daschbach again in track.
“I could definitely go for the state championship in the 800, but it will be a battle with Leo and Lee for the mile,” Van Alstine said.
State Cross-Country Championships
East Valley Top-10 finishers
Division I Boys
Teams – 1, Desert Vista, 31. 2, Highland, 41. 4, Mountain View, 149. 5, Hamilton, 220. 7, Red Mountain, 245. 9, Perry, 285. 10, Corona del Sol, 294.
Individuals – 1, Sammy Van Alstine, Desert Vista, 16 minutes, 3.08 seconds. 2, Leo Daschbach, Highland, 16:06.99. 3, Lee Nasewytewa, Desert Vista, 16:09.20. 4, Travis Kearney, Desert Vista, 16:25.19. 6, Dallin Archibald, Highland, 16:28.84. 7, Josh Lowry, Desert Vista, 16:30.31. 9, Caden Resendez, Highland, 16:31.86. 10, Matthew Judd, Mountain View, 16:43.58.
Division I Girls
Teams – 2, Chandler, 93. 3, Highland, 105. 4, Desert Vista, 120. 5, Red Mountain, 156. 7, Skyline, 188. 9, Perry, 205. 10, Mountain View, 310.
Individuals – 2, Morgan Foster, Chandler, 18:04.04. 3, Caroline McLeskey, Highland, 18:23.96. 6, Kailey Welch, Mountain View, 19:11.07. 8, Kylie Miller, Perry, 19:18.13. 9, Yaylor Lovell, Perry, 19:29.11. 10, Katy Clausen, Desert Vista, 19:46.66.
Division II Boys
Teams – 2, Casteel, 144. 3, Campo Verde, 150.
Individuals – 8, Kenny Edwards, Campo Verde, 16:31.03.
Division II Girls
Teams – 6, Higley, 250. 8, Campo Verde, 259. 9, Casteel, 273.
Individuals – 5, Jadyn Herron-Jonap, Casteel, 19:16.18.
Division III Girls
Individual – 9, Christina Joslin, Seton Cathoilic, 20:14.05.
Division IV Boys
Individual – 8, Kyle Blunt, Chandler Prep, 16:48.81.
Division IV Girls
Teams – 3, Chandler Prep, 137.
Individual: 6, Justine Cooper, Chandler Prep, 20:42.19.