On Monday, we took a look at what state cross country appears to hold for the boys. Today, we do the same with the girls. And, we'll take the same line of attack, starting with Division 4 and working our way up to Division 1.
Without further ado, here's where things stand:
The Division 4 girls don't have nearly as clear-cut of a team favorite as the D4 boys do. Two likely contenders emerge out of the Rose Mofford Sectional. There, Northwest Christian and Glendale Prep battled to within two points of each other at the top of the field. And, those two teams likely emerge as the two most likely candidates for a state title this weekend. Both teams goes five-deep capably enough to be certifiable state title contenders. It's tough to find other teams that can boast the depth that characterizes NW Christian and Glendale Prep. But, if you like teams that have quietly sneak into the picture while nobody is paying much attention, you have to appreciate Pusch Ridge Christian's late-season charge. All season long, PRCA has looked like a good team, but probably a little short of a team that could make a serious title bid. That changed this past week when PRCA dominated the Buena Sectional with a set of times that suggest maybe, just maybe, they can make a serious run at the other top teams this weekend. PRCA still counts as a dark horse, but not as dark of a horse as they were 10 days ago.
Individually, it's beyond difficult to see anyone in the field who figures to give Jessica Madrid a serious run for her money. It's highly probable that Madrid wins this by over a minute. It's not a done deal yet, but that's how the tea leaves are reading for now. Second figures to be something of a toss-up between Kimi Cahoon, Taryn Janssen, and Ayla Young. Janssen has the most at stake from a team perspective.
Very few questions swirl around D3 as the weekend approaches, either in the team race or the individual race.
Salpointe Catholic is a clear favorite to win the team title. There's a reason why we still show up and run the race, but SC is your favorite. There's no point debating it. They've run around the state. They've beaten larger schools on a consistent basis. They've tested themselves against strong competition and stood the test, repeatedly. They've become better as the season has progressed, and they seem to be reasonably healthy. It's difficult to imagine a reason why they wouldn't be ready for Saturday. The possibility of complacency may rank as the single greatest threat.
ALA Queen Creek, Thatcher, and Coconino showed up as the best of the rest last week and figure to repeat those performances this weekend. Of those, Coconino is likely the best, though Coco may have lost a little of the edge that characterized the early part of their season. If so, however, there's no place like state to get your edge back.
Individually, Kylie Wild may be as far in front of the field right now as Salpointe Catholic is out in front of the team field. Evelynne Carr, who was right with Wild at last year's finish line, is still the most proximate threat. She's just not as proximate as she was last year unless she's saved something really big up her sleeve for state.
One of the highlights of Saturday's state meet figures to be the battle for the D2 girls team title. Early in the season, Casteel looked to have the upper hand on Flagstaff. Since then, Casteel has held their own, while Flagstaff's fortunes have taken, if anything, a turn for the better. At this point, my assessment is that, on paper, there isn't a wafer's width of difference between the two teams. It should come down to who has the better race-day plan and adrenaline. It's always a little more fun when you figure that's what you're watching and not some oversized disparity between contending teams.
Flagstaff, of course, buried the Rose Mofford Sectional last week. Casteel did equal damage at the Crossroads Sectional. You can look high, and you can look low, but you can't find a team to match up with the firepower that either Flagstaff or Casteel figure to be bringing to the state meet. To be blunt, I tried to find a third team to include in the team title conversation and drew a complete blank. There's nobody there. Desert Mountain and Catalina Foothills are probably closest, but the gap is more than consequential.
The race is a bit more complex at the individual level. Mia Hall won it all last year and checks in as your favorite this year. But, her favorite status hasn't quite yet advanced to "lock" status. Taylor McCue has a legitimate, if distant, hope of creating a little extra meet-day angst for Flagstaff. More distant bids could be launched by Clara Jones and Madelyn Palmer.
So, show up Saturday and see what happens!
A mere month ago, this was looking increasingly like another Desert Vista state title. In the wake of last week's sectionals, it doesn't look nearly so much that way now.
Katie Sigerud is, as much as she probably would prefer not to be, the locus of the question marks. Sigerud hasn't raced since Desert Twilight. Since she's been DV's #2 runner for a while now, that makes a huge difference in how things turn for the Thunder.
Make no mistake, Desert Vista is an excellent team, with or without Sigerud, but Highland is a team that has been waiting their turn in this game for a while. Desert Vista didn't have a lot of margin to begin with, and without a fully healthy Sigerud, they may not have any. We saw hints of this at last week's sectional meet. Perry--a good team in their own right, but not one that would normally threaten DV--was perhaps a bit too close for comfort. Liberty, a team champing at the bit all season long for a chance to show what they're made of, got a meaningful upper hand on Xavier College Preparatory at the Cesar Chavez Sectional. And, of course, Highland rolled the Rose Mofford Sectional with a 16-point team score.
Highland should be DV's biggest concern, but not their only concern. But Liberty and Perry just might be smelling blood in the water as well. In short, there's every reason for the best teams in the state to be showing up at the state meet with hopeful outlooks. Don't figure this one is settled until the scoring computer has done its thing with ALL the finish times.
Individually, the title is Lauren Ping's to lose. Ping has been running extremely well this season. If Ping is on her game, nobody is going to stay with her, much less run her down from behind. Madeline Reeves, Emma Baugh, Bailee Christofis, and Taylor Lovell all figure to be in the hunt for second. And, the manner in which the battle for second settles out could have a bearing on the eventual team outcome. All the top contending teams have a horse in that race.