Coconino cross country runner Rochelle Kanuho is already meeting her long-term running goals. First and foremost, Kanuho wants to beat Page standout Katrina Lee.
During the first two miles of the Class 4A, Division II state championship meet in Phoenix Nov. 5, Lee and Kanuho ran neck in neck. Lee pulled away to get second place in 20 minutes, 15.55 seconds, while Kanuho took third in 20:29.65.
"I was hoping to get second," Kanuho said.
Despite the heat and up-and-down course that plagued the runners, Kanuho said her mind wasn't exactly focused on the terrain.
"Sometimes I try not to think about it too much," Kanuho said. "But other times I try to tell myself that I can do well."
Kanuho, a sophomore, continues to make big strides as a runner. And she has emerged as one of the state's top talents.
Kanuho is the Arizona Daily Sun's 2005 All-City Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year. Voting was done by the city's varsity coaches and three Daily Sun sportswriters.
Kanuho had defeated Lee before, in the Tuba City Invitational in late October. And she also has beaten Lee since the state championships. In Albuquerque, N.M., in the Border War, a race pitting the top prep runners from Arizona and New Mexico against each other, Kanuho was the eighth-place finisher.
The Coconino student came out on top, as well as in the Foot Locker West Regional Invitational on Dec. 3. In the Foot Locker race, Kanuho finished 58th out of about 120 runners in the seeded race. Out of all the female runners, she was 68th out of about 720.
But Kanuho still wants to beat Lee at the state championship. In fact, she said her goal is also to win states. Even on her own team, Kanuho has the competition to make her reach that goal.
She comes in the form of freshman runner Kelli Triphahn.
In nearly every race this season, Kanuho would finish well and Triphahn would be right behind her.
"It kind of scared me," Kanuho says now, "because I didn't want her to pass me."
At this rate, Triphahn is going to be as good as Kanuho. As a true test of Kanuho's improvement since her freshman year, in the Holbrook Invitational, Kanuho had a time of 22:46. This year, her time was 19:40 and she won the race.
Triphahn's Holbrook time this year was 20:26, or 2:20 better than Kanuho's as a freshman.
Not to worry, however, because Panthers cross country coach Tsosie Taylor said Kanuho has the drive to make it big.
"(Kanuho) is easy to work with, and coachable," said Taylor, who has been working with Kanuho since mid-October of last year.
Taylor said her ability was evident when she caught up to runners who had more experience than her. A good example is the fact that Lee is a junior this year and Kanuho is a sophomore.
"She improved quite a bit since last year with only a year of real training," Taylor said. "She has the goals and has things in perspective."
Kanuho and Taylor are so serious about Kanuho's running that they are spending much of the holiday break training.
They are aiming to go to the USA Cross County Junior Nationals in New York in February. For the coach and runner, much of their break will be spent on trying to get sponsorship to go to nationals.
One group that Taylor talked to is WINGS of America ,which is based in Santa Fe, N.M. This group works with up-and-coming Native American athletes, Taylor said.
Along with competing in this prestigious race, Taylor said he wants Kanuho to drop some time over the year. A minute and a half to be exact.
"She'll be with the top runners if she can reach that goal," Taylor said.
Joining Kanuho on the All-City Cross Country team are Coconino's Triphahn and Flagstaff's Sarah Goldberg, JJ Wykstra, Sarah Ring, Kate Aitchison and Jessica Keetso.
Triphahn's strong frosh campaign ended with a ninth-place finish at state, crossing the finish line in 21:05.80. She also finished fourth in the Grand Canyon Region Championship meet with a time of 19:36.
Goldberg placed eighth at the state meet in 20:52.60, while Wykstra finished fifth at state and first on her team at 20:46.20.
Aitchison finished sixth for the Eagles at regionals in 20:08 with Ring right on her heels in seventh at 20:10. Keetso, meanwhile, finished eighth (20:15).
This "sea of green" proved to be very effective for the Eagle girls at regionals as they barely beat out rival Page with a tie of 37 points each. The Eagles took the tiebreaker when their sixth runner, Bobbi Cooley, finished 12th, five places ahead of the Sand Devils' No. 6, Britnie Mabey.
Honorable mention accolades go to Northland Preparatory Academy's Jojo Salay, Sinagua's Becca Gazzar and Flagstaff's Bobbi Cooley.
Annie Turner can be reached at email@example.com or 556-2257.
DAILY SUN'S 2005 ALL-CITY GIRLS CROSS COUNTRY TEAM
Rochelle Kanuho, Coconino
Kelli Triphahn, Coconino
Sarah Goldberg, Flagstaff
JJ Wykstra, Flagstaff
Sarah Ring, Flagstaff
Kate Aitchison, Flagstaff
Jessica Keetso, Flagstaff
Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year — Rochelle Kanuho