Most Improved XC Boys Returning in 2020 (By Time)

Garrett Armstrong of Cactus running in Nike Desert Twilight Festival in 2018

We See You

Sure, everyone admires the lead pack of athletes on the course and how they can sometimes look almost effortless traversing the 5K distance in sometimes a pace under 5 minutes per mile; but, let's not forget about those runners who are also in the race. The kid who is running his first-ever 5K. The boy who has asthma and still goes out for cross country. The freshman who doesn't really have the stereotypical body type for a distance runner and yet gives it his all each and every race. Some of these athletes find themselves toward the front of the pack by junior and senior year, and some of these runners, while they improve, have times that just don't get them the limelight of sub-17 and sub-16 minute cross country runners. But what many of these runners have his grit and that goes a long way on a cross country course.

Today we are going to put a spotlight on a few of these runners who, for the most part, are not in their team's top-5, but yet have improved in their 5K times from 2018 to 2019 by no less than 3 minutes - that's crazy!

The full list of the 84 boy runners who accomplished this feat is in the link below. But we will highlight a few of the boys right here.

Garrett Armstrong - Cactus: This young man went from running 36:21 in 2018 to 21:03 in 2019! That is simply bananas! That is a 15:18 improvement in time, which is 42.08% faster. He went from running basically 11+ minute miles to sub-7 minute miles in the span of a year. To put that in perspective, if our top returning XC boy runner (Roshan Tinoco-Miranda) did that he would drop 6:24 seconds off his 15:15 PR, leaving him with an 8:51 5K best next year.

Now of course as one runs faster times it's harder to make these enormous leaps, but nonetheless Garrett's improvement here is enormous.

Harrison Flint of BASIS Flagstaff went from 37+ minutes to low-23s in one season, which was an overall drop in time of 14:24. That was a 38.28% improvement in his pacing from 2018 to 2019. Great job Harrison!

Our fastest time from this list in 2018 was Kaden Gilliland of Highland. He ran a decent clocking of 20:46 in 2018 as a freshman; but then, like many Highland distance runners have done in the past, subscribed to Coach Monty's training magic over there in Gilbert and had his time in 2019 fall to a quite respectable 17:18, which makes that a 3:28 improvement or 16.70% faster than his best race in 2018.

Our fastest time from this list in 2019 was Brophy's Jessie Salinas. As a sophomore in 2018 he ran a season's best of 22:00, but in his junior season in 2019 he harnessed that Bronco power over there in Central Phoenix and ran a best of 16:57. He cracked into the top-7 of Brophy's varsity squad and ran state for them last year (where the team took 3rd). That was a 5:03 drop from 2018 to 2019 or a 22.97% faster 5K than in 2018 - well done, Jessie!

Other than Jessie and Kaden, three other boys broke into the sub-18 minute 5K range. Luke Poarch of Northwest Christian (17:07 from 22:50) who was the number 6 runner for NWA at State in 2019, helping them capture third place. Tomas Soqui of Chandler went from 21:18 in 2018 to 17:16 in 2019, and also made his school's varsity team at state, where he was their 6th man. And lastly, Ernesto Oquita of Agua Fria dropped nearly 4 minutes from 2018 to 2019 by running 17:55 last season. He improved by 7 minutes at Nike Twilight in 2019 (18:04.26) from his 25:35 clocking there in 2018.

19 runners on our list improved by over 20% from 2018 to 2019. And 25 of the 84 boys had improvements of at least 5 minutes from 2018 to 2019. The average 5K time for this group was 26:34.2 in 2018 and came rumbling down to 21:49.9 in 2019. That means the average improvement for these boys in one year was 4:44.3 or 17.83%.

Take a look at our list and maybe we will see these boys continue to improve and help their teams in 2020.