Shota Yabuuchi's second in D4 stands in as one of the unanticipated highlights of Saturday's state meet action.
Saturday is done. It's in the history books. Desert Vista and Highland won the Division 1 titles. Flagstaff and Casteel split the Division 2 titles. Division 3 titles went in opposite directions, one to Salpointe Catholic and one to Coconino. Only Division 4 Northwest Christian managed to come away with a sweep.
Of those crowns, Coconino's probably counts as the biggest turn from the realm of the expected.
Similarly, the individual titles played out very much according to form. Lauren Ping, Mia Hall, Kylie Wild, and Jessica Madrid were expected to win. Their performances matched expectations, though the margins were not necessarily what was expected in every case. Noah Jodon, Jon Barney, and Cesar Diaz pulled off their expected victories, though Jodon got pushed all the way to the end in his effort. In a very mild surprise, Terrence Keyes of Gilbert picked off Logan Marek of Ironwood Ridge in D2.
But you knew all that already. You didn't come to this article to read that. The headline promised something different. It's now time to deliver on "something different."
Standing out among the D4 finishes, and not at all on the pre-meet radar screen, was the second-place finish of Shota Yabuuchi. The Sedona Red Rock senior ran 16:31 to finish second in the D4 Boys race. Yabuuchi did run sub-16 at Fountain Hills and did take a first in the small-school race at Desert Twilight, but he successfully managed to avoid my radar screen even so. His performance at state earns him a little bit of recognition that slipped through the cracks of the earlier parts of the season.
Also outperforming my projections was Rio Rico's Jorge Trujillo-Lira. Part of the issue here may be that Jorge appears to have two different MileSplit profiles, one going by the handle of Jor Trujillo-Lira and the other by the handle of Jorge Trujillo. I'm fairly certain now, though, that they are one and the same person.
In any case, Trujillo-Lira, who's been on something of a run late in the season, gave Cesar Diaz a spirited battle before eventually settling for second in the D3 Boys race. Trujillo-Lira ran 16:25 to wedge in ahead of Nate Pestka for second among D3 boys.
Although she didn't finish quite as high as Yabuuchi or Trujillo-Lira, let's also throw a nod in the direction of Coconino freshman Mary McGinlay. In some sense, the story of McGinlay's season begins with a 24:11 at the Hopi meet. I'll concede here that Hopi isn't the fastest course in the world but, even so, 24:11 doesn't set off anyone's attention meter. McGinlay ran 20:33 for third at the Hidden Cove Sectional. That's definitely trending in the right direction, but it would still be difficult to project from that finish to her fifth-place finish (in a time of 20:07 in conditions of both literal and metaphorical heat) at state.
If you are about the business of trying to identify a single most-compelling reason for how and why Coconino edged out the favored Salpointe Catholic girls, you'd better have McGinlay's effort on your short list of possibilities.
While on the topic of D3 girls here, I'll add that Chinle's girls third-place team effort--and more than that their proximity to first and second places--was a noteworthy accomplishment. Chinle came to compete and left with that mission accomplished.
In D2 Girls, though Clara Jones was on our radar screen, she still managed to outpace my projections. Jones moved aside Taylor McCue for a spectacular second-place finish. Nobody was running down Mia Hall on Saturday, but the Campo Verde sophomore took care of the rest of the field in high fashion.
Also deserving a shout-out for a performance arriving under the radar and leaving very much on the screen was Bennett Meyer-Wills of Cibola. In a contest where a couple of the expected leaders struggled with the heat, Meyer-Wills was very much on top of his own race. Meyer-Wills enjoyed a couple of highlights in his season leading up to state, but the third-place state finish looms as his largest accomplishment of the season.
None of these stories, of course, are the absolute headlines of Saturday's state meet. But, in the telling of these stories we have made the accounting a good deal more complete.