O’Connell logs career-best effort in Tombstone; Thatcher girls capture team title

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Morenci freshman Elyse Gonzales and sophomore Marissa Jacinto, freshman Valeria Zegarra Nunez, and sophomore Keirah Chee run some laps for time during a recent Cross Country practice session. The Wildcats placed third in Tombstone Sept. 11 and head to Gilbert for a second meet Saturday, Sept. 19.

By Raymundo Frasquillo

TOMBSTONE – Three miles were covered by Morenci senior Kayla O’Connell in a career-best 19:25 to finish first of 40 entrants Sept. 11. Her 2020 clocking in “the town too tough to die” not only surpassed two previous efforts, 20:03 for first of 59 in 2019 and 20:41 for fourth of 48 in 2018, but re-set a course record. The eclipsed mark was 19.50.

She remains focused on her goal of beating the clock whenever she laces up her running shoes. Her personal best of 20:04.93 for 48th of 204 entrants in the 5K run was posted last September.

The diminutive 2019 Division IV – Section II champion has been logging six miles daily during the off-season. Her 2019 section winning effort was 21:19:10 for first of 70, topped by 20:26.40 for 7th of 160 at the state meet, and 20:11.40 for 43rd of 193 at the Southwest Regional.

Raymundo Frasquillo File Photo/Gila Herald: Left, Senior Kayla O’Connell posted a career-best time of 19:25.00 in Tombstone Sept. 11. It eclipsed the course record by 25 seconds. Right, Thatcher sophomore Camille McBride finished fifth (21:32) in Tombstone as the Eagles earned the team title.

Morenci finished third in Tombstone with 73 points, behind Thatcher (32) and Benson (41), and ahead of Safford (88). Willcox had three entrants and host Tombstone two.

The Wildcats’ quintet also included freshmen Valeria Zegarras Nunez at 13th (23:17) and Elyse Gonzales at 17th (24:30) plus sophomores Marissa Jacinto at 31st (26.35) and Keirah Chee at 36th (28:21).

Thatcher sophomore Camille Bryce was fifth (21:32), sophomore Maren Hatch sixth (21:35), senior Ashlyn McMaster seventh (21:51), sophomore Madison Pena ninth (22:42), and freshman Sedona Nelson 11th (22:53). Number six Eagle, freshman McCall Lee was 12th (22:55) and No. 7 sophomore Rachel Richardson 14th (23:53).

Safford senior Koree Villareal finished 16th (23:58), junior Lauren Montierith 24th (25:42), senior Madelyn Hatch 26th (26:02), sophomore Olivia Madrid 28th (26:13), and senior Samantha Van Houten 29th (26:19). Juniors Laurel Hargis and Emily Goodman were 38th (28:59) and 40th (32:23), respectively.

Benson junior Amitty Hall was second (20:25), freshman Bailey Hall third (20:57), sophomore Siarra Wilson eighth (22:14), freshman Ella Allred 15th (23:53), and sophomore Brooke Schmidt 19th (24:42). Freshman Liliana Lerblance and junior Delma Santiago were 30th (26:27) and 32nd (26:44), respectively.

Also placing in the top 10 were Tombstone freshman Reagan McGuire at fourth (20:57) and sophomore Taylor Jundt at 10th (22:52).

A Willcox trio of freshman Ja’nasia Jenkins, sophomore Yuliana Reyes, and junior Naomi Hernandez came in 35th (27:09), 37th (28:23), and 39th (30:39), respectively.

Morenci heads to Gilbert for an 85-team meet, sponsored by Chandler Prep, on Saturday, Sept. 19.

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