Most years in the last decade Desert Vista was the Division I boys' team champion - this year, it could be a lot more wide open. There are five teams we think to have a legitimate chance at winning state at the end of this week.
Liberty has Dan Foster and John Shinske who should break into the top-10 at State individually and have a 90-second spread from runners one thru five. If Foster and Shinske can break into the top-five at State it could be interesting to see where the Lions land at the end of the day.
With Xander Black the hands-on favorite to win the individual crown, and runners two thru four only having a 10-second gap, the Broncos may be the team to beat in 2020. Their top 5 are all upperclassmen (Brody Haar, Charlie Fallon, Jackson Moran, and Jessie Salinas). If Xander takes the top spot and his four teammates can all be under 17-minutes, The Broncos will most assuredly be hoisting the team trophy.
Highland has no burners this year, but their pack mentality is quite formidable (about a 30-second gap between one thru five). The Hawks may be a year away from seriously contending for the State title, and with three underclassmen in their top-seven (two freshmen in the top three - Crewe Resendez and Lucas Witcher) they are positioned well for 2021. Coach Monty always has his kids ready though, so don't be surprised if they put a bit of a scare in some of the other teams with older runners.
A couple of injuries has affected the Thunder this season, but they are still a tough out in 2021. They have a bunch of juniors and sophomores filling up their top seven, so if they don't capture another title this year, you can believe next year they will be ready to reclaim the Division I prize. Noah Jodon - their number one runner - should be in contention for minimally a top-three finish individually, and with the rest of the team with a less than 60-second spread may end up making it quite interesting for the other top teams in the field.
Mesa Mountain View
Mesa Mountain View has been tough all year and with runners, one thru five, being about 60-seconds apart, will make for a pack-like strategy that may land them the gold. Seniors, Joshua Judd and Brady Eagar need to be in the top five or six individual runners to help the Toros attempt this massive undertaking. And if runners three thru five could all be mid-17s rather than high-17s on the Crossroads course then anything could be possible.
Teams also to watch:
Basha and Red Mountain. Although we don't think they have enough horses and/or the depth to win the crown this year, they will definitely make an impact on the course this week. We wouldn't be surprised if things broke the right way, to see Red Mountain or Basha break into the top 3 or 4 teams at State. Red Mountain's Noah Czajkowski and Elijah Davis have a good chance to crack the top-ten at State individually and if Basha can get all their runners, led by Hayden Gelder, between 17 and 17:55 then they will be displacing runners on teams vying for the number one spot on the podium.