For Flagstaff Eagles head coach Trina Painter, the Four Corners meet at Buffalo Park represents a turning point of the cross country season.
More used to transitioning from training to racing, the athletes should be ready to execute, to turn it on for the rest of the year.
“I think it takes a few races to get sharp, to get back into race mode whether you are a young freshman trying to figure it out, or a seasoned senior and you are used to practice and not racing," Painter said. "It seems two or three races in, they get more race-savvy.”
Flagstaff showed they've developed since the first outing of the season, sweeping Saturday's meet at Buffalo Park in dominant fashion. The Eagles girls, led by a first-place finish from Hana Hall in 18:15.3, recorded a low score of 19 points for the victory, while the boys crew had the low score of 24 points.
Four Flagstaff runners on the girls side filled up the top five, with Mia Hall taking second place in 18:30.9, Anna Harmon third in 19:13.8 and Allie Thurgood fourth in 19:22.7.
In the first two races of the season, Flagstaff struggled to run as a group as it dealt with athletes adjusting to the season and little nagging injuries acting as setbacks.
On Saturday, however, it all started taking shape.
“It was fun for them to come in today, get together and see the strength of their team and how close they are together," Painter said.
The Eagles boys, the four-time reigning state champions at the Division II level, were led by a second-place overall finish from Max Davis in 16:14.4. Gabrial Harju was third overall in 16:16.1 for the Eagles and teammate Riley Human was fourth in 16:17.1. Lance Harris and Ryan Hatch finished seventh and eighth, respectively, for the Eagles.
Mia Hall, a freshman, is getting used to the season now.
“It’s our third race, so I feel better,” she said.
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Ganado came in second as a team on the girls side with 50 points, with Mingus Union taking bronze. On the boys side, Ganado scored 72 points for the silver and Arbor View took third place.
The D-III Page boys came in fourth in the team standings, and were led by Rex Martin's first-place finish in 16:05.1.
Northland Prep's boys, competing without top runner senior Brandon Bounds, came away from the 3-mile varsity race with a sixth-place finish. Malakai Hanson clocked a 16:58.3 for a 10th-place result that led the Spartans.
The Northland Prep girls squad finished fifth in the varsity race, with Jillian Raab the first Spartan to cross the finish line in 21:13.3 at 14th place.
Basis Flagstaff was led by a 23rd-place finish by Colm Cawood in 17:34.2 on the boys side, as the Yeti were 11th-place finishers.
On Friday, Flagstaff will be at the Nike Desert Twilight Classic in Casa Grande. Northland Prep and Basis Flagstaff will also have athletes at that same meet, as well as Coconino.
The Coconino Panthers had their cross country crews in California over the weekend at the Woodbridge Classic.
A 53rd-place result came from Mitchell Jacobson in 16:24.7 on the boys side for the Panthers in the varsity 3-mile B White race. Adin Scott made his way into the top 100 with a 62nd-place result in 16:30.2.
Coconino freshman Wheaten Smith went 18:34.7 for a 19th-place finish in the girls Varsity B White 3-mile race, and teammate Kaelynn Ashley took 31s place in 18:53.5.