Upon entering the facility in Gilbert, you could feel that the 2009 Desert Twilight Cross-Country Festival was going to be something special. “Friday Night Under the Lights” at the Toka Sticks Golf Course, and hosted by Queen Creek High School and Arizona State University brought most of Arizona’s best together for the biggest invitational in the state. From Tombstone to Chinle, over 50 teams made the drive to Gilbert. Tuba City had to endure close to a seven hour drive as road construction hindered their travel, but the team made it to the meet 30 minutes before the boy’s Sweepstakes event.
The course was fast, the weather was perfect and the atmosphere felt more like a carnival than a cross country meet. Everywhere you looked, the athletes were enjoying the music, the neon lights and the fast competition… and, not to mention, with the cooler temperatures they were almost guaranteed PR’s!
The two most anticipated races of the evening were the boy’s and girl’s Sweepstake races. The boy’s race got underway at 8:25 PM with three Catalina Foothills boys (
Shrader, Magnuson and Hardt left the meet right after their race to hop on a plane to North Carolina for a recruiting visit.
Mesa Mountain View boys (photo below) won the team event with 96 points, followed closely by Catalina Foothills with 107 points and Brophy College Prep with 134 points. Mesa Mountain View, led by Tyler Bingham, placed runners in 6, 13, 14, 29 and 34.
In the girl’s race Xavier College Prep senior Jessica Tonn jumped out to a slight lead with Rolonda Jumbo (So., Chinle) on her left shoulder and Marissa Opatz (Jr., Desert Mountain) on her right shoulder. Ashley Workman (Sr., Queen Creek) and Kylee Kieser (Jr., Casa Grande) were a few steps behind and two freshmen, Sarah Fakler (Xavier College Prep) and Jenna Maack (Desert Vista) followed. The first mile was a fast sub 5:10, but Tonn had no problem with it. "A little after the first mile I was by myself and I just pushed myself. I used the (golf) cart as my rabbit," said Tonn after the race. She continued to push herself and increase the gap, crossing the finish line in 16:32.3. "The crowd was awesome and the fireworks were even more awesome," said Tonn with a laugh, "I didn't feel fatigue when I crossed the finish line. This is the best I've ever felt after a race." Tonn's time of 16:23.3 was also the fastest time of the meet.
Freshman Sarah Fakler was 50 seconds behind Tonn and looked great in her final 200 meters. Her time of 17:22.5 was 14 seconds faster than third place sophomore Brianna Decker (Mesa Mtn. View). Decker's teammate , sophomore Sarah Schmidt took 4th in 17:36.6; Kylee Kieser (Casa Grande) finished 5th in 17:39.5; Rio Rico junior Aeoleone Bristow took 6th in 17:47.2; Marissa Opatz (Jr., Desert Mtn) placed 7th in 17:48; Christen Collins (Sr., Pinnacle) finished 8th in 17:49.9; 9th place went to Daylee Burr (Jr., Xavier College Prep) in 18:00.8 and Highland freshman Ashley Hatch rounded out the top 10 in 18:07.1.
Girls Top 5 from left; Jessica Tonn, Sarah Fakler, Brianna Decker, Sarah Schmidt and Kylee Kieser.
Xavier College Prep had three runners in the top ten winning the team event with 54 points. Katie Penney (Jr) and Breanna Perrone (So) placed 21 and 22 respectively. The Highland girls took 2nd with 103 points and Desert Vista finished 3rd with 142 points.
Earlier in the evening, the Desert Vista boys took six of the top eight spots in the first race of the meet, winning the freshman boy’s race with 17 points over Highland (69 pts.). Austin Tielke (Desert Vista) won the event in 17:02 with teammates Carter Macey (17:03) and Dylan Smith (17:19) claiming the next two spots respectively.
Shea Painter (Pinnacle) and Maddie Riggs (Highland) fought it out for the win in the girl’s freshman race with Painter edging Riggs. Painter's time of 20:50.1 was a half second faster than Riggs (20:50.6). The Pinnacle girls won the team event with 32 pints over Cactus Shadow (67 pts.)
Thirty three teams and 366 boys entered the open race but it was a sea of red at the finish line as Mesa Mountain View dominated the boy’s open race placing runners in positions 1, 3, 4, 5 and 9, for 22 points. Desert Vista took second with 61 points by placing runners in 2, 8, 10, 19 and 22. The individual winner was Colton Jacobson (Mesa Mt. View) with a time of 16:00.9.
The Highland girls team took home the winning trophy in the girls open race with runners in 1, 2, 3 14 and 33 for 53 points. Mesa Mountain View placed second with 86 points and Desert Vista took 3rd with 90 points. Highland's Lauren Henry won the race in 19:35.7 with teammates Meagan Wakefield and Jessie Worger finishing 2nd and 3rd.
Chris Markey from Arcadia won the boys varsity race in 15:41.4 finishing nine seconds ahead of 2nd place runner Eduardo Guerrero (15:50.4) from Cibola. Guerrero and teammate Josh Lopez (3rd place in 15:55.8) led their team to a first place victory with 47 points over 2nd place team Casa Grande (160 pts.).
Sophomore Taylor De Laveaga (Perry) won the girls varsity race in 18:36.9. Terri Baker from Cactus Shadow took second in 18:59.8, leading her team to the title with 72 points over Prescott High with 87 points. Lisa Wiley from Shadow Mountain was third in the event in 19:06.6.
In the women’s college race, hosted by Arizona State University, Florence Ngetich from El Paso took first in 16:48.0. Former ASU runner Allie Kieffer took second in 17:06.4. In the men's race former Mountain Pointe standout and ASU All American, Aaron Arguayo took top honors in the community race finishing in 14.24.5. Arguayo and former ASU All American, Victoria Jackson, handed out the awards after the meet.
3rd place finisher Alejandro Montano (Catalina Magnet) congratulates the top 20 runners in the Sweepstakes Race.
The only noticeable glitch in the evening happened just before the first race causing a twenty minute delay. The course needed to be remarked and became shorter than the 5K distance originally planned. However, the overall sentiment of the participants and spectators was that this was the meet of the year in Arizona heading up to the State Meet.