Note: This article includes schools in the writer’s area of coverage, which is as follows: from Fountain Hills west through Scottsdale, all of Phoenix (except for Ahwatukee), the southwest, northwest and northern sections of the metro area. Other locales include northern, northeast and northwest Arizona. Most of this information was obtained from e-mail questionnaires returned by the coaches.
The boys’ cross country team from Scottsdale Saguaro finished third at the state meet in 2012, part of a strong Division III field.
Now the Sabercats have a new challenge. They petitioned to move up to Division II and that was granted by the Arizona Interscholastic Association.
Despite losing D-III individual champion Jake Wynn to graduation, Saguaro coach John Prather has a good group of returnees.
The top runners are junior Alex Stevens, who was 14th at last year’s state meet and who finished fifth in the 3,200 at the state track meet; senior Fox Stone, who was 28th in the state cross country meet; and sophomore Tyler Beauchamp.
Phoenix Central also has moved to Division II. Coach Paul Bonnett lists sophomore Ricardo Morales as his top runner. Bonnett’s son, James, is taking over the girls’ program at Central.
In Division I, Glendale Mountain Ridge would appear to have a good chance to raise its standing after finishing ninth a year ago.
Mountain Ridge will rely on three seniors – Nick Dale, Justin Elitz and Rodolfo (R.J.) Ayala.
Dale was 12th in the state meet and performed well at the state track meet in the 1,600 and 3,200. Elitz had a good cross country season, finishing 35th, and has shown great improvement since, pushing Dale in some of the early workouts. Elitz is known for his strong finishing kick. Ayala has played quarterback for Mountain Ridge in the past, but decided to concentrate on running.
Scott Giddings is one of the longest-tenured cross country coaches in the state, beginning his 40th season at Phoenix Greenway, and he has strength and depth with his squad in 2013.
Most of the team will be comprised of senior Austin Lavin, junior David Borja, sophomore Richard DeLara, junior Steven Navarro, sophomore Estevan Camacho, senior David Roper and sophomore Davey Widney.
Avondale La Joya will be looking to improve with runners Mark Salazar and Justin Fell.
Glendale High appears to have a talented group that includes senior Jonathan Vargas, junior Eduardo Toledo, sophomore Tony Ortega and senior Ramel Morales.
Junior Michael is the coach at Phoenix North Canyon, and the Rattlers will be led by Victor Sarat, Gerardo Quevedo, Ian Tonemah and Brandon Oviedo.
Phoenix Sierra Linda is led by sophomore Angel Zamora and junior Alex Sanchez.
Anthem Boulder Creek finished fifth in Division I. Its top runner is junior Luke Meyer. Phoenix Brophy Prep finished eighth, and is led by senior Duke Burr.
Division II defending champion Cave Creek Cactus Shadows lost a pair of seniors, but returns five key runners. They are junior Keith Durkin, senior Erik Oswald, junior Kanal Nadesan, senior Kishan Patel and senior Jordan Hass.
Flagstaff High finished sixth in Division II a year ago, but will have to regroup after graduating six seniors. Sophomore Kaleb Sandoval is expected to lead the Eagles.
Prescott High, eighth in Division II, returns three key juniors – Simon Page, Luke Arminio and Kevin Campbell.
The Division III race is expected to be wide open.
Tuba City was the No. 2 finisher last season, and has senior Alonzo Thompson as its top man.
Other Division III contenders and their top expected returnees: Chinle (Brandon Bia), Page (Jeffery Miller), Winslow (Kevin Decker), Flagstaff Coconino (Jullian Melvin), Fort Defiance Window Rock (Nathaniel Henio) and Fountain Hills (Scott Jarriel).
Keams Canyon Hopi has won 23 straight titles and No. 24 appears to be a strong possibility in Division IV.
Coach Rick Baker’s top runners are junior Howard Anfernee, who finished third a year ago, and senior Ryan Sinquah, who was 10th.
Other Division IV contenders and their top expected returnees: Flagstaff Northland Prep (Jonathon Hall), Phoenix Veritas Prep (Brandon Corke), Many Farms (Zhariff Lee) and Sedona Red Rock (Kris Schindele).