The Desert Vista cross country programs have had some pretty special days over the years.
Yet nothing compared to Saturday’s performance.
The Thunder were able to top anything in their history at the Division I state meet at Cave Creek Golf Course.
It’s hard to match a performance that saw a long-standing dream fulfilled, a record broken and history made.
Desert Vista became the first Arizona big-school program to win both the boys and girls state meet in the same season as the Thunder dominated both races to accomplish something that hadn’t been done in the previous 37 years of competition.
“It’s historic in our minds,” Thunder boys coach Chris Hanson said. “To be able to be on top of both of those podiums is something we have of talked about and dreamed about. We have dreams as coaches and that’s one of them.”
The Desert Vista boys set the tone when the Thunder won the DI race for the second time in three years and the sixth time overall behind juniors D.J. Harris (16 minutes and 9 seconds) and Xavier Esparza (16:10) finished fourth and fifth, respectively.
Desert Vista, which finished as runner-up last season, finished with five runners in the top 16 to finish with 46 points with Mesa Mountain View second at 96 and Corona del Sol, led by medalist Marcus Wheeler, in third with 126.
“I worked really hard for it,” said Harris, who was healthy for the whole season for the first time. “I was really pushed my teammates and had great support.”
The Desert Vista girls were even more impressive as the nationally ranked Thunder finished with the second-best score (30) in big-school history as they blew away the field with five girls in the top 12 and six in the top 18.
The big winner was senior Dani Jones as she took another step toward cementing her place in Arizona history for distance runners as she set the course record — 17:26 — in winning the event for the second year in a row.
“It means a lot even though it was not necessarily the goal,” said Jones, who also has four distance-event state titles in track. “I came down the stretch and heard people saying, ‘You can do it’ and I tried to finish strong. It was more about being up there with (Xavier’s Jessica Tonn, who set the record in 2009) and to see where she is at now (All-American at Stanford) and gives me something to look forward to.”
Jones was backed by a young contingent as her sister, sophomore Baylee, was third (18:50), freshman Haley Wolf (19:03) was sixth, sophomore Mandy Davis (19:12) was eighth and sophomore Maddi Bucci was 12th (19:29).
“The goal was to run a close pack, and have the last mile our best mile,” Thunder girls coach Jeff Messer said. “Our (team score) got lower as we got deeper into the race. We knew the heat would slow everyone down, but it was up to the girls to trust everything we had done up to this point would allow them to come through.”
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