Above: Colton Yazzie (Page), Zaire Blevins (Desert Vista), Marquavais Brandenburg (Red Mountain)
The Crucial 6th Runner
Some caveats on how we come up with these rankings; obviously, incoming freshmen can throw a wrench into these rankings, but we don't have high school times for these teens yet, so they are left out. Two, these rankings are based on these athletes' best cross country 5K times in 2019. We understand that different courses lend themselves to faster times than other courses, but this is just to give us a rough estimate of how the team's runners 1-7 rank against other teams' 1-7. The key here is we are talking about returning runners and not who was your 6th runner in 2019. After we account for seniors graduating, we are making an educated guess who will be your number 1-7 runners in 2020. So your number six runner in 2020 may have been your number 7, 8, or 9 runner in 2019, depending on how many athletes you graduated.
Today we are focusing on the boys' sixth man returning runners. We had 172 teams who have at least 6 runners who were juniors or younger last year. Teams without at least 6 runners who were juniors or younger last year did not make this list.
We are going to focus on the returning sixth runners who ran a PR of sub-17:20 for their teams in 2019.
Colton Yazzie (Page): A sophomore in 2019, Colton ran for the State Champion Page Sand Devils. He was actually Page's 5th man in this race. For the majority of his races in 2019, Colton ran in the 17s and had a solid PR at Nike Twilight with a 16:46. For most of the season, Colton was really Page's number four or five runner; the only reason Colton isn't our number 5 returner for Page is that his teammate, Gavyn Begay, bested him at Nike Twilight by one second (16:45), which then makes him the sixth fastest returner on his team in 2020. Either way, Page will be looking to defend their State title again with their top 6 athletes coming back in the 16s and 15s.
Zaire Blevins (Desert Vista): Ran as a sophomore for DV in 2019 and broke 18-minutes in all but two races. Zaire had his best time of 16:55 at Nike Cross Nationals Southwest Regional and was DV's number 5 runner at sectionals with a 17:11, which placed him in the top 20. DV has 15-20 guys nearly every season who can break 18 minutes and 6-10 of those guys who can go under 17 minutes, so Zaire will see where he fits in 2020, but he's sure to be an essential piece to the Thunder plan.
Marquavias Brandenburg (Red Mountain): As a junior, Marquavias competed in only two races - State and Nike Southwest Regionals. He ran 17:00 at State as Red Mountain's 4th runner and was again Red Mountain's 4th athlete at Nike. He ran State for Red Mountain his sophomore year as well as their 6th man. Brandenburg is a very consistent runner when it comes to pace and hopefully can break into mid-16s or faster for his senior season in 2020.
Miles Mcleskey (Highland): Miles ran in the 17s all season but his first race of the year in 2019. He had a best of 17:07 at Nike Twilight. He won the Gilbert District Championship sophomore race in 17:32 and placed 3rd in the open division at Doug Conley. With Highland being perennial xc power in AZ, it's impressive just to break into the top seven for the Hawks. Miles has a good chance of that this year.