State Champions (copy)

Northland Prep Academy holds the first-place trophy Saturday, Nov. 4, after ending Hopi's 27-year champion streak at the cross country state championships at Cave Creek Golf Course in Phoenix.

Benji Shanahan, Arizona Daily Sun, file

Year after year, high school cross country teams continue to provide epic outcomes and big stories.

In 2017, the sport pushed it to a new level.

After 27 straight years of winning Division IV state titles, the Hopi boys cross country team came up short, and Northland Prep was the team to put an end to the long run of Bruin championships.

On the girls side for Northland Prep cross country, Maya Smith ended her decorated varsity career with a fourth individual title and helped her team to its third championship over four years.

On that same historic November day, the Flagstaff girls and boys kept their stunning streaks alive, each completing a three-peat at the Division II level.

But cross country wasn't the only sport to bring in the hardware and post dominant seasons.

Here's a look at the top 10 high school and community sports stories of 2017, a year full of championships and streaks for Flagstaff-based sports programs:

NO. 1: SPARTANS NEW KINGS OF CROSS COUNTRY

The Northland Prep Spartans boys cross country team did what no other D-IV team could do in 27 years: outrun the Hopi Bruins for a state title.

Dubbed The Great Blue Wave, Northland Prep's pack consisting of Brandon Bounds, Hayden Anderson, Nalzheii Lonetree, Nicholas Hall, Micah Stanton, Sailor Starcher and Nathanial Sullivan recorded 57 points to runner-up Hopi's 68.

Battling for position in the last half-mile as runners from both teams went shoulder-to-shoulder, both teams placed three runners in the top 15 of scorers, but it was Northland Prep with the deciding times.

Bounds, a sophomore, had a fourth-place finish in 17:01 to lead his team. Another Spartans sophomore, Hayden Andersen, was next, taking the No. 8 spot in 17:09, and Nalzheii Lonetree was 12th but earned 10 points.

With both teams short on seniors in 2017, next year is set up for another stellar race at the Cave Creek Golf Course in north Phoenix.

NO. 2: CROSS COUNTRY TRIPLE-DOUBLE

Fly, Eagles, fly.

Flagstaff's boys and girls cross country teams ended their seasons with three-peats at the D-II level on Nov. 4. The Eagles girls won their third straight state title in dominant fashion, scoring just 49 points, and the  boys recorded 127 points.

But the tight packs led to more than just gold.

The girls squad was the fastest in the entire state out of the combined 90 programs that competed. Meanwhile, the boys group was the fourth-fastest team out of 106 total schools.

NO. 3: FROM START TO FINISH

Northland Prep's Maya Smith showed she's not just tough physically but also mentally on the way to winning four D-IV state individual cross country titles over four varsity years.

Smith ended her high school cross country career with a time of 18:01, taking 20 seconds off her 2016 state meet time. During her four years with the team, Smith played a key role in helping the Spartans girls to three state titles and one runner-up finish in 2015. This year, as in years past, she led the field the entire race.

Adding to her success, Smith had a 32nd-place finish at the Nike Cross Nationals, clocking an 18:28.0 in Portland, Oregon, on the first Saturday of December.

NO. 4: BLACKJACK SOCCER SEASON

They hit 21 ... wins that is. They lost zero.

After years of coming up short of a state title, the Northland Prep girls soccer team cruised to a 2A Conference championship, beating Chino Valley, 3-1, in the big game in October.

On the way, the Spartans went 12-0 in the regular season, tallying nine shutouts and allowing just three opponents to each score once against them. Overall, Northland Prep, led by a youth movement and new head coaches, outscored opponents 130-10.

NO. 5: TRAGEDY STRIKES FLAGSTAFF BASEBALL

Just before the Flagstaff Eagles ballclub was about to celebrate prom and a trip to the playoffs for the first time since the 2014 season, a tremendous tragedy hit the team and rocked the school when Evan Wissen died.

According to a GoFundMe page set up to collect donations for the family, Wissen’s father found him unresponsive on the bathroom floor the evening of Thursday, April 27. That Saturday, Wissen was pronounced dead.

The slugger recorded 23 RBIs, two home runs and 22 hits for the Eagles on a .310 batting average in 2017. He was set to play catcher, the position he always loved, for George Fox University in Newberg, Oregon.

Wissen was remembered for his style on and off the field, as teammates and coaches agreed he had an eye for clothing and for hitting the ball.

NO. 6: CONTINENTAL DIVIDE

The Continental Little League Gray Diamondbacks broke a city championship drought in 2017, returning the trophy to their side of town for the first time since 2011.

No matter what, a Continental team was going to become the club to break West Flagstaff Little League's long run, as Gray faced and beat the Red Diamondbacks in the championship, 6-5, for the decider.

Gray, which outscored its first three opponents 33-6 to get to the title round as the No. 1 seed of CLL, got the championship victory on Dawson Field without dropping a game on the way.

NO. 7: SNOW BIG DEAL

The Flagstaff-based teams that play in winter and spring had a hectic year after snowstorms blanketed fields, caused cancellations of games and turned schedules into chaos.

A storm that dropped 15 inches of snow overnight in the city of Flagstaff stalled the start of the spring sports season. In the winter due to the weather, the local high school teams ran out of time to fit in games. Moreover, NAZ Elite, the Flagstaff-based professional running team, had to think outside the snowdrifts in order to keep logging miles.

NO. 8: BRINGING THE BEACH TO FLAGSTAFF

The Coconino Panthers beach volleyball team finished the regular season with a perfect 11-0 record and reached the quarterfinals of the Division I state tournament.

The success led to sand courts on campus.

This spring, the Panthers will be competing on its own true homecourt sand thanks to the 2017 approval to build two courts.

Wrapping up its fourth year of existence and best season yet, the young program has been playing its home matches at Flagstaff Athletic Center-East for the past two seasons.

Coconino is set to be the first school in the city of Flagstaff to have sand courts.

NO. 9: KEEPING IT CLEAN

Despite losing their former No. 1 to graduation, the Northland Prep boys tennis team continued its stellar streak in 2017.

The team increased the number of consecutive regular-season wins to 29 thanks to going 11-0. The hard work over the years has put the Spartans at 38-1 over the past three seasons of regular-season matches.

NO. 10: COCONINO COMEBACK

A controversial call, a big turnaround for a young quarterback and a 12-10 victory ended the football season in dizzying fashion, with Coconino edging Flagstaff in order to take back the city trophy.

After committing three turnovers in the second half, Coconino Panthers quarterback Ty Furr kept his composure, drove his team down field and then clawed into the end zone from a yard out to push his team past the Eagles.

Earlier in the game, a Flagstaff player appeared to have crossed the goal line, but didn't get the call from the referees. Instead, Coconino caused a turnover on the play.

The victory helped Coconino avoid a 1-9 season.

Mike Hartman can be reached at 556-2255 or at mhartman@azdailysun.com.

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