Upcoming Hopi meet to determine AZ's top teams
By Quentin Jodie
WINDOW ROCK, August 22, 2013
(Times photo – Donovan Quintero, Krista Allen)
A uditions are taking place as we speak for this year's frontrunners in Arizona prep cross-country.
We start this year's preview with Page, the defending Division III girls state champs. The Lady Sand Devils have three returning lettermen – Jordan Roskelley, Tomeka Church and Lara Yazzie – that edged Mingus Union in last year's state title run.
"We graduated three seniors but we have some young girls that are talented," Page coach MacArthur Lane said. "I think we'll be OK and our goal is try and finish in the top three again this year. Hopefully we can progress towards that at the end of the season."
With that it opened the doors for other teams in the area.
"I'm not too sure what Tuba City or Chinle has," Lane said. "I know they have a couple of girls coming back."
Lane said the first area meet of the year, which will be hosted by Hopi High on Sept. 3, will help teams get a better understanding of where they stack.
"That's a real good indicator for the northern teams, in terms of who has what," he said.
The Page coach said the Peaks Invitational, which is scheduled for Sept. 7 in Flagstaff, will also help determine how the state meet will play out.
"If you look at the results from that meet and the state meet, it kind of mirrors each other," Lane said. "We'll just have to wait and see how the season goes."
Just as we start to turn the page into this new season an interesting development happened when the Arizona Interscholastic Association reworked its realignment and bumped the Ganado Hornets into Division III.
"Last year we always looked out for Hopi," said second-year Ganado coach Lynette Lookingback. "This year we have all the surrounding teams like Window Rock, Chinle, Page and Monument Valley to look out for. This is definitely going to be a challenge for our team."
At the 2012 Division IV state championship, the Lady Hornets finished the meet in fourth place headed by all-state freshmen Nikesha Eagleman and Daangoiina Haven.
The two sophomores are back this year. Freshman Shamiqua Nez also joins the Hornet team.
"I started a summer running club and you know those three were pretty consistent," Lookingback said. "Coming into the season I was getting pretty excited because I have everyone except one returning but I need to work on my fourth, fifth and sixth runners."
With that said, Lookingback said it'll be awhile before she sees the true potential in her club.
"With our first meet of the season I am wondering where are we as a team," she said. "Our wakeup call is going to be our first meet. It'll determine where we are as a team, where we are as individuals and we'll go from there."
Still most of the area coaches pegs her club as the team to beat.
"It looks pretty even with all the northern teams but I have to give Ganado the slight edge," Tuba City coach Arvis Myron said. "With the runners they had last year they are the team to beat."
With two seniors – Brianna Loughran and Chelsea Shepherd – returning, Myron is hoping to improve on their 12th-place finish at state last year in Division III.
"Last year we were the last team in our section to make state," Myron said. "Looking at their training the last two weeks I think our girls will do a lot better this year. We should place somewhere in the top seven at state later this year."
Things are looking even more promising for the Tuba City coach on the boys' side even though they lost three runners this season – two to graduation.
One runner transferred out, but two former students – Anthony and Brian Masayesta – came back home to finish out their high school at Tuba City after leaving the area for more than five years.
According to Myron, the two boys lived with their parents in San Diego where they made a lot of headlines running cross-country.
"Their dad retired from the military so they came back," he said. "They are a great addition to the team."
Myron said he expects Page, Chinle and Rio Rico to be in the mix for this year's state title.
In 2012, the Warriors finished second to Rio Rico in an unexpected landslide.
Before the state meet, Tuba City challenged the southern Arizona squad in a couple of regional meets. But in the one that matter most, Rio Rico packed five of its runners in the top 7 and won the meet with a whopping 29 points
Tuba City finished a distant second with 73 points.
"We are going to focus on what we can do and not worry about the other team," Myron said. "I made that mistake last year, thinking about Rio Rico too much. I knew they were going to be a good team but we can't control what they can do … we have to control what we can do."
Page, which finished fifth at state last year, is looking stronger than ever.
"I think this year we have a legitimate shot at finishing in the top 3 at the state meet," Page coach MacArthur Lane said. "And if things go well and everyone stays healthy we have a real good chance at winning the event."
Of course, Lane is basing his assessment on what his boys did during the state track meet last May.
"We had some of our boys perform real well," he said.
In particular, junior Jeffery Miller won the state title in the 1,600-meter race where he edged Chinle sensation Searle Tracy at the finish line.
Another up-and-coming runner to look out for is Window Rock sophomore Nathaniel Henio, who was an eighth grade state champ.
"We expect some real good things out of him," Scouts coach Steven Fabina said. "He is going to be our top performer."
Despite the focus being centered on Page, Tuba City and Rio Rico for now, Fabina said his club should surprise some people. The Scouts return four runners from last year's team that place eighth overall.
"We got a lot of young talent," Fabina said. "We did our time trails last week and all the kids look good. A lot of them put in mileage during the summer with running camps."