School practice for the cross-country season has officially begun and with the first few meets around the corner, we'll be publishing the individual previews before September 6th when the first meet of the season rolls around.
We begin our subjective countdowns of the 2019 Arizona cross-country season's 15-6 returning runners per division, beginning with the Division IV Girls. We'll save countdowns of the top five individuals per division for the last week before the first meet.
*Special Note: Please understand that these previews are meant only to profile some of the top teams and athletes in each class and are by no means as a way of excluding certain teams/athletes for any reason. Civil discussions on subjective rankings are encouraged and embraced. Comment with anyone you think we left out and please send any private questions, comments or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lane is the two-time returning State Champion for the D4 Girls 400m dash and she's had the endurance base to run well at 5km in previous cross-country seasons. She placed third in the D4 Section 4 Girls' race last year and she holds a 5km PR of 20:43.70 from Desert Twilight two years ago. Her best finish at Cave Creek Golf Course has been 39th in the D4 Girls' race at the State Championships and we hope we can see her change that this year.
Ayla Young was strong freshman spearhead for the Spartans. She finished 5th in the D4 Section 4 Girls' race at the Crossroads Sectionals and finished 23rd in the D4 Girls' race at the AIA Cross Country State Championships. In the spring at the State Meet, she finished just outside of the top 10 in the D4 Girls' 1600m and 3200m races and is ranked among the top ten returners for both events.
Hall is another returning super-sophomore from last year. She finished 5th in the Girls' race at the Justin Prevatte Classic and then moved on to finish 8th in the D4 Section 2 Girls' race at the Rio Rico Sectionals. She concluded her season at the AIA Cross Country State Championships where she placed 27th in the D4 Girls race. The Benson ladies qualified two girls to run at Cave Creek Golf Course last year, but Hall and her teammates aim to secure a State Meet berth for the lady Bobcats this season.
She won the Safford Invitational and though she has never broken 21-minutes for 5km and doesn't run track, she has steadily placed higher and higher at Sectionals and State. Last year, Nelson finished 10th in the Red Girls' race at the Rio Rico Rattler Invitational. She finished 2nd in the D4 Section Girls' race at the Rio Rico Sectionals and then finished 22nd in the D4 Girls race at the AIA Cross-Country State Championships. Will she be fit enough to finish her career with All-State honors in November?
She holds a 5km PR of 20:44.8 from the Doug Conley Invitational two years ago. Last year, she stepped up to lead the Glendale Prep Griffins after their top girl shut down her season due to injury. She finished 4th in the D4 Section Girls race at Rose Mofford Sectionals and then placed 13th in the D4 Girls' race at the AIA Cross Country State Championships, a week later.
Kaitlyn Cochran returns as a seasoned veteran and ready to lead the Trojans. As a freshman she finished 14th in the D4 Girls race at the AIA Cross-Country State Championships. She didn't have a fantastic cross-country season last fall, but she appears to have bounced back as seen from her track season. In May, she placed 6th in both the D4 Girls' 1600m and the 3200m at the AIA Track and Field State Championships.
On paper should be the no. 8 returner among D4 Girls this fall. Last year, she ran a PR of 20:41 at the Justin Prevatte Classic, which was her first career performance under 21-minutes. O'Connell would move on finished 3rd in the D4 Section Girls race at the Rio Rico Sectionals and was 19th in the D4 Girls race at the AIA Cross Country State Championships.
Naomi Rustin finished 12th at the Cross-Country State Meet two years ago, and then finished 10th last year. She is the no. 7 returner from last year thanks to her season best time of 20:40, and has run 20:23 at Desert Twilight. She has been competitive against several of the fastest girls in eastern Arizona and will aim to finish her career as high as possible as a D4 Girls finisher this fall.
Nizhoni James doesn't run track but has maintained her fitness for the cross-country season year after year. She's consistently run her season best races under 21-minutes and last year she finished 8th in the D4 Girls race at the AIA Cross Country State Championships. She holds a lifetime-best of 20:11 from the 2017 Desert Twilight, but she's got a lot of work to do if she aims to reach higher at Twilight and State.
Last year, Lumpkin won the D4 Section 2 Girls race at the Rio Rico Sectional Championships and ten days later, she placed 9th in the D4 Girls race at the AIA Cross Country State Championships. Lumpkin is also a D4 state-finalist in the 400m dash and she ran a PR of 1:02.68 in the preliminaries at the State Meet. Can she carry that speed over to 5km during the Arizona cross-country season?