We begin our countdown with the Eagles in Thatcher Arizona. Wesley Pena will step up to lead the Thatcher Eagles after a solid season when ran a PR of 17:06 at the Justin Prevatte Classic and then placed 5th in the D4 Section 2 Boys race. The other four scorers will need to close the gap in order to put up a stronger fight against other D4 teams by the time they get to Sectionals and State. They placed 5th at the AIA CC State Championships, and furthermore we know that they know how to win at Sectionals. The Eagles have won the D4 Section 2 Title at Rio Rico HS, two out of the last three years and will certainly aim to declare themselves among the best teams in their Division, not just their section.
Thatcher have an even stronger tradition on the girls' side having won their Section Title four years in a row. They return Elliana Windsor, Ashlyn McMaster, and Hailey Udall all return as a core nucleus for the Eagles having run sub-22 minutes at Justin Prevatte. They have some up and coming freshmen who could play a varsity role, but they'll have their work cut out for them among the other returners. It's interesting to imagine what they'll be able to do under ideal racing conditions at a meet like Desert Twilight.
Coach Cook Says…
Who are your top returners?
On the boys' side it'll be Wesley Pena. He was top five at Sectionals last year and he's really excited about competing for a section title and seeing what he can do at State as well. On the girls' side we have three main returners. Ashlyn McMaster, Elliana Windsor, and Hailey Udall, those three all finished high in the section.
Do you have any impact freshman or incoming transfers?
We're pretty excited about two freshmen, Rachel Richardson and Camille Bryce. They both did really well at our junior high program.
How has your preseason training been going?
We don't really get a chance to meet with them much over the summer. We send texts out and encourage them to get miles and build a base. Like always we have some that did it and some didn't.
(Left: Elliana Windsor finished 4th in the D4 Section 2 Girls race at the Rio Rico Sectionals last year. - photo John Hays)
What meets are you keying in on this year?
The kids have always wanted to go to Twilight and we're excited about going this year. They're excited about that and that's a fun event. We're kind of isolated here in southeastern Arizona and so we run a lot of invitationals out here. Our invitational is probably the hardest, being so hot and early in the season and it has a lot of steep hills. Morenci puts on a good meet as well, called the Copper Hill Cross Country Meet. We get most of our fastest times at the Justin Prevatte Classic in Tombstone.
What's the most important thing you want young people to learn through running?
This year we have 63 kids out from a school of 500. We want them to enjoy the sport and enjoy being on a team. We have kids struggling to run three miles and we have other kids running 16-minutes and 17-minutes. We want everyone to enjoy being part of something fun and to have a lifelong love for running, staying in shape, and treating your body right.