Last year, Tempe High’s Diana Garcia was an unknown runner, trying out the sport for the first time. The newcomer had quite the introduction, finishing in the runner-up spot in the Division III girls state cross country championships
This year, she came in as the front runner with a target on her back, and though by all means still a novice to the sport, she showed up Saturday at Cave Creek Golf Course in Phoenix for the state championship race looking like a pro.
Garcia seized the lead from the start and cruised to victory on the 3.1 mile course with a time of 18 minutes, 39 seconds.
“This year, I feel like I worked hard for what I got,” Garcia said.
Sierra Jerriel of Fountain Hills was second, 33 seconds behind Garcia at 19:11 and Skyler Storie of Cottonwood Mingus was third at 19:38.
Garcia passed the first mile in 5:47, motivated to keep a quick pace by Jerriel and Storie, who stayed tight with Garcia through the first mile.
“I felt the girls right behind me so that’s why I went out faster,” Garcia said. “They weren’t falling back so I kept going faster.”
By mile two, Garcia had put 11 seconds between her and the other two and, though she said she began to fatigue, she would not again be challenged for position.
A few spots back from the front pack, Page’s top runners were also using each other as motivation. The team’s top runners captured spots six through eight on their way to a team title with 51 points. Mingus was second with 58 points and Chinle was third with 110 points.
Last year, Page had to settle for second place, falling to Chinle by just three points. Coach MacArthur Lane said it feels good to be back on top.
“Cross country is it up in Page so it always feels good to bring (a trophy) back home,” he said.
Senior Jayde Secody was the team’s highest finisher in sixth, followed by Nicolette Coleman in seventh and Nicole Douglas in eighth place.
“They feed off of each other,” Lane said. “They drag their teammates along.”
The team title marks the Page’s third in last four years.