The competition was tough at the 38th annual Doug Conley Invitational now in it's 2nd year at the Rolling Hills Golf Course. The S.A.T.'s may have weakened a few teams but the races were exciting as both the boys and the girls finish came down to the final 800 meters.
In the girls race Rolonda Jumbo (Jr., Chinle) and Aeoleone Bristow (Sr., Rio Rico) moved to the front of the lead pack in the race and by the time they passed the first mile they were shoulder to shoulder with Kristi Rush (So., Highland) on their heals. As the race continued, Jumbo and Bristow separated from the group and continued to run close to each other (passing the 2 mile mark in 11:55) until they entered the finish shute where Jumbo made a moved up the hill and crossed the finish line in 18:34.8 less than 2 seconds ahead of Bristow. Kylee Kieser (Sr., Marcos de Niza) finished 3rd in 18:58.60.
"My foot was bothering me so I tried to run as fast as my foot could handle it," said Jumbo after the race. Don't ever count Jumbo out as she came back to win the 1600 and 3200 meter run after a horse riding accident almost ended her track season last spring.
The Desert Vista Girls Team
The Desert Vista girls won the team title with 76 points placing 2 runners in the top ten. Brittany Tretbar finished 5th in 19:30.51 and Lauren Owens took 8th in 19:55.05. Also scoring for the DV team were Megan Kupres in 17th (20:18), Yasmin Yacut in 21st (20:27) and Natalie Krafft in 25th (20:42). Xavier College Prep did not run their top runners but their team still managed to take 2nd place with 78 points.
In the boys varsity race, Jorge Martinez (Sr., Alhambra) and Johnathan Yazzie (So., Chinle) passed the mile mark in the lead in 5:08 with Will Firth (Sr., Brophy), Alejandro Valencia (Sr., Rio Rico), Tracie Searle (Chinle), Corey Breinholt (Sr., Highland) and Mike Russell (Page) just one second behind. The group stayed together until the start of the second loop when Valencia and Firth moved to the front. The lead went back and forth as both Firth and Valencia wanted to stay back but eventually Firth took the lead to the finish line.
(Photo right Valencia (Bib# 704) and Firth (Bib# 201) just past the 1st mile)
"I was slightly more nervous coming into this race (Doug Conley) than I have been in the past few races; 1) because this is one of my favorite races and I REALLY wanted to win; 2) I had just suffered defeat to some really good runners last weekend (at Twilight) and one of them was going to be here; and 3) The coach that usually helps with my race planning and mentally getting ready (Alex Mason) was on vacation.
Even though I was nervous I knew I had a really strong chance of coming out on top. At Twilight the course was one of the flat kind while today (Doug Conley) was more rolling hills. I am definitely a "hill kind of guy." My strategy was what is has been all year. Stay relaxed, and stay with the front group until i hit my pre-determined "make my move" marker.
The race started out fairly fast but nothing that was too much to handle. We stayed in a group of about 5 until we started the second loop where Jorge Martinez had an unfortunate accident and tripped over a flag pole. (Jorge ran a really smart race for what happened. He did not try to sprint and make up the distance between us. He stayed relaxed and in control and slowly made his way back up to a third place finish. It takes a very mentally tough runner to pull off something of that difficulty).
From there it was just me and Alejandro from Rio Rico. I stuck to my plan and stayed right behind him. At around the two mile mark I took over the lead and tried to pull away but he stuck with me through the push. He took over the lead again and tried to pull away himself. This is the point that the physical race had ended and it was a competition of pure mental strength. I had to decide whether I wanted to win or not. (Thinking back on it now makes it seem like such an easy decision) I was in pain and it would have been all too easy to just drop back and take a second place finish, we were far enough ahead to do so.
However, I took a deep breath and just thought to myself "Go. Go now." and so I went."
Firth went on to win the race in 15:49 with Valencia finishing 2nd in 15:53 and Martinez in 3rd in 16:19.
The Alhambra Boys Team
The Alhambra boys, led by 3rd place finisher Jorge Martinez, continue their undefeated winning streak winning the varsity race with 147 points and an average time of 16:59.93. Desert Vista, led by 11th place finisher Ryan Maack, finished 2nd with 156 points and an average time of 17:02.