Cross country Wildcats expected to be at full strength

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Thatcher senior Hunter Stailey set the pace early and finished first with 18:27.03, 23.08 ahead of Safford’s Jacob Urrea (18.51.02).

By Raymundo Frasquillo

MORENCI – Morenci did not finish first last season. Onlookers couldn’t figure out why the cross country Wildcats celebrated as if they had won the state meet. The Kenneth Lester-coached boys improved from 20th of 27 teams in 2016 to sixth in 2017, and they felt the 14-place jump was a reason to celebrate.

Several of the returnees continued to train in the off-season, and it paid dividends in the initial meet attended in Payson Aug. 29. The Wildcats posted improved times, some two minutes quicker than in the previous season.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Team members had instant communication on the storm hitting Morenci via smartphones. The pooled water on the parking lot went down by the time they returned from a meet in Bisbee on Sept. 19.

However, Morenci has not been at full strength with all returnees available. That is changing as junior Cameron Bailey-Garcia and senior Matthew Silvester return to the roster.

The Wildcats are at Willcox Sept. 26 and at Casa Grande before hosting the Copper Hills Invitational Oct. 3.

Cobre Invitational

Morenci returned from the Land of Enchantment with a second place finish of five teams running in Bataan Park at Fort Bayard Sept. 15. Silver High totaled 30 points, Morenci 44, Las Cruces 50, and Bayard Cobre 95. Deming had one participant.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Senior Anthony Chanez helped set up some shade prior to a meet in Safford on Sept. 12.

Individually, junior Jordan Mares clocked in with 19:21.00 for 3rd of 29 finishers; senior Shawn Kartchner with 19:22.00 for 4th; junior Dante DeAnda clocked in at 20:37.00 for 9th; junior Cameron Bailey-Garcia with 24:00.00 for 26th during his initial meet this season; and freshman Marcus Grijalva with 25:02.00 for 27th.

Silver freshman Matthew Holguin finished first in 19:08.00, followed by senior Oscar Lopez in 19:17.00.

Thatcher Invitational

Mares achieved his personal goal of a top 10 finish with a running of 19:34.07 for fifth place, but the Wildcats came in below expectations at third with 93 points.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Senior Jordan Mares paced the Wildcats in each of the first five meets attended by the Wildcats.

Silvester would have finished in the top 10 but collapsed within sight of the finish line, requiring medical attention, and was disqualified after collapsing at the finish line.

Senior Gabriel Baca would also have been in the top 10, but stopped to aid Sylvester and finished with 21:10.06 for 13th, Kartchner was 18th (21:59.07), senior Anthony Chanez 28th (24:01.02), and Grijalva 34th (26:27.04).

Host Thatcher took the meet with 34 points, followed by Safford (47), Morenci, San Carlos (94), Tombstone (103), and Benson (141). Willcox had four entrants and Fort Thomas one.

Thatcher senior Hunter Stailey clocked in at 18:27.03 for first, junior Wesley Pena was fourth (19:31.05), junior Talon Brown eighth (20:23.02), freshman Toby Rojas 11th (20:51.00), and freshman Dean Haller 12th (21:03.08). Junior Matt Orr was 14th (21:27.03) and freshman Tanner Palmer 16th (21:40.03).

Runner-up Safford had junior Jacob Urrea end second in 18:51.02, senior Dominic Gutierrez third (19:23.06), junior Duncan Walker sixth (19:38.01), junior Grant Montierth 17th (21:57.08), and junior Sy Hargis 21st (22:30.06). Sophomore Nathan Wells was 27th (23:57.02).

Senior Anthony Hopkins Jr. was the top San Carlos finisher with 20:15.05 for seventh. Brian Cassa was 19trh (22:05.06), Jalen Patten 20th (22:24.05), Jeremiah Ailak 22nd (22:31.05), and Rappart Cassador 30th (25:12.08). Gerald Phillips was 31st (25:56.02) and Jack Moses 36th (28:19.01).

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Thatcher’s boys all finished in the top 16 of 42 participants to capture their own meet title Sept. 12. The Eagles totaled 34 points to runner-up Safford’s 47. Members of the team (not in order) and finish were Hunter Stailey (1), Wesley Pena (4), Talon Brown (8), Joby Rojas (10), and Dean Haller (11). Matt Orr was 13th and Tanner Palmer 14th.

The Willcox quartet included Johnny Collins at 38th (29:06.00), Ryan McClaine at 39th (29:29.01), Sloan Williams at 41st (31:31.97), and Adrian Miraflorez at 42nd (33:33.07).

Nikolas Thompson was the lone runner representing the Apaches, ending in 26:97.08 for 33rd.

Desert Solstice Invitational

Morenci was one of 67 schools and 297 runners, 163 in the Black and 134 in Silver, represented in Marana Mountain View’s Desert Solstice Invitational at Crooked Tree Golf Course Sept. 8.

Individually, Black runner Mares came in at 18:21.68 for 88th of 163 finishers, surpassing his 19.33.73 of 2017; Kartchner clocked in at 18:31.23 for 93rd, did not participate last season; DeAnda at 18:49.68 for 111th, quicker than 19:49.58 in 2017; and Silvester had 18:54.33 for 114th, bettering his 19:24.30 in 2017.

Silver entrants Baca ran 19:56.46 for 78th, ending sooner than 20.05.20 in 2017; Chanez finished 87th (20:19.89), Grijalva 112th (21:39.38), and senior Ryan Williams 121st (22:13.47).

Payson Invitational

Individually, Mares turned in a personal best 18:00.8 for 15th of 169 finishers, surpassing his 22.01.7 for 84th in 2017; Silvester had a personal best 18:29.4 for 23rd, bettering his 20:03.8 for 42nd; Kartchner also had a personal best with 18:30.0 for 24th, did not participate last season; DeAnda clocked in at 18:40.0 for 28th, quicker than 21:16.6 for 70th; and Baca ran 19:37.3 for 50th, ending sooner than 22.00.4 for 83rd.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Thatcher cross country head coach Chris Cook goes over meet information during a coaches meeting Sept. 12.

Previous bests were 18:02.41 in 2017 for Mares, 18:41.0 in 2016 for Silvester, 19:06.0 in 2016 for Kartchner, 18:22.19 in 2017 for DeAnda, and 18:54.0 in 2017 for Baca.

Division II Queen Creek Casteel won the meet with 30 points and its five entrants each finishing in the top ten. Senior Zach Gomez was the first finisher in 16:20-0, Derek Baca third (16:34.0), senior Kyle Shirley fourth (16:52.2), sophomore Dayton Carlson fifth (17:18.4), and senior Daniel Kirkland seventh (17:24.3).

Division III Show Low was the runner-up with 90 points, Division IV Thatcher third (118), Division I Queen Creek fourth (123), Division III Queen Creek American Leadership fifth (125), Division II Phoenix South Mountain seventh (154), Division III Cottonwood Mingus eighth (191), Division IV Chandler Valley Christian ninth (243), and Division III Lakeside Blue Ridge 10th (251).

Host and Division III Payson was 11th (352), unattached East Fork Lutheran 12th (375), and Division IV Miami 13th (390).

The rest of the top 10 finishers were American Leadership junior Gabriel Tasker at second (16:27.2), Show Low freshman Mason Hall at sixth (17:23.6), Show Low junior Beau Williams at eighth (17:31.6), Queen Creek junior Denton Hardt at ninth (17:33.0), and Thatcher senior Hunter Stailey in 10th (17:36.2).

Other Wildcats posting times were senior Anthony Chanez in 19:38.4 (51st), senior Ryan Williams in 22:00.2 (102nd), sophomore T.J. Lee in 24:11.7 (127th), freshman Chris Wile in 24:24.5 (131st), junior Mario Esquivel in 26:10.7 (147th), freshman Marcus Grijalva in 26:50.4 (150th), freshman Nico Patterson in 27:05.0 (151st), and senior Christian Jones in 42:35.7 (169th).