2012 Arizona girls prep cross-country preview

By Cindy Yurth'
WINDOW ROCK, August 16, 2012

CHINLE, August 16, 2012

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Former Chinle High cross-country coach Shaun Martin (far right) poses with his entire varsity squad after his girls' team captured the 2009 Arizona 3A state title. Martin recently announced his resignation after leading the Chinle program for eight years.

I n 2011 Rolonda Jumbo proved again that she was the most dominant force in long distance running.

As one of Arizona's most decorated runners, Jumbo posted impressive marks during the fall campaign. The former Chinle High runner hardly found any challengers and to test her abilities she often sought out the course record.

"No one dominated like she did," Tuba City coach Arvis Myron said of Jumbo. "She changed the dynamic of girls cross country."

Now that she's graduated, we're more likely to see a balance field with different runners taking the spotlight each week.

"I think well see more of that," Page coach MacArthur Lane said. "You know there was always a pack behind Rolonda so its going to come down to who is running their best."

Besides the departure of Jumbo, the two-time defending Division III state champions will be without last years coach Shaun Martin. Martin stepped down after coaching the Chinle team for eight years, four as the girls' head coach. Colorado native George Geo Muniz de Lucero is taking charge of both programs.

In a separate story, Muniz de Lucero said, "There's no point trying to reinvent the wheel here," as the Lady Wildcats have won five of the last six state championships with three under Martins watch.

"I have immense respect for him," Muniz de Lucero said of Martin who also coached the Chinle boys cross-country team to back-to-back Division III state titles.

"He built this program," he added. "I just hope that I can bring something extra to the table."

This year, the Lady Wildcats return four members from that 2011 state championship squad headed by senior Deriann Yazzie, who finished eighth last year.

"Im looking for Deriann to be our leader," Muniz de Lucero said. "I have a strong team and the critical thing for us is to stay injury free."

The first-year coach said it should take him a few weeks before he gets acclimated to the type of competition his team will face week-to-week.

"I've only been on the job for a two weeks, but I do know that a lot of teams will be focused on us," Muniz de Lucero said. "All we can do is go through our workouts and prep ourselves."

One of those teams that will give Chinle a run for their money is the Page Lady Sand Devils.

Last season Page lost the state title to Chinle by a mere three points (74 to 77).

And with five returning letterman headed by seniors Jayde Secody and Nicole Douglas, the Sand Devils are pegged by many to win this years state crown.

"You would think so," Lane said. "I would like to say we are the favorites because the girls didn't like finishing second but we still have to deal with teams like Chinle, even though Shaun (Martin) is not the coach anymore."

Besides his team and Chinle, the second-year coach said Minus, Rio Rico and Tuba City should also part of the conversation.

But come November he's hoping that he'll pack five runners in the top 20 at the state meet.

"If we can do that I think well have a good shot," he said. "But you never know what will happen."

Window Rock has two runners - sophomore Danielle Smiley and senior Yanibah Jaques - who could challenge for a podium spot in the individual race.

The girls field will also be bolstered by other runners, which include Shelby Jim of Monument Valley and Winslow's Allison Johnson.

In Division IV, Hopi is expected to test their might for another state crown. Dating back to 1987 the Lady Bruins have won 20 such titles including the last five.

"That's the big talk right now," Ganado coach Lynette Lookingback said of the Bruins. "They have set the bar pretty high."

Last season the Hornets finished the state meet in fifth place and with five returning harriers, Lookingback said she has high expectations for this years team.

"We're going to push ourselves in that direction," she said.

With two girls still waiting on their physicals, the first-year coach said her club is not at full strength, but for the time being she will depend on senior Aljane Teller and junior Sunny McCabe for leadership.

"Im looking forward to the middle of the season," said Lookingback. "I think that is when we'll be a competitive team."

Holbrook is another program that could challenge Hopi for the title with the depth they have. The Lady Roadrunners return five harriers, headed by senior Colbi Nez, from last years team that finished in fourth place.

Other who could crack the top 20 this year includes: Alchesay's Davette Susan, Valley's Chelena Betoney, Pinon's Wyonna Tsosie and Red Mesa's Payen Robertson.

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