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.
Star Sarah Fakler has graduated, now scampering through the greener pastures at the University of Virginia, but the team she leaves behind at Phoenix Xavier Prep has a good chance to earn its seventh straight big-school cross-country championship.
Coach Dave Van Sickle’s Gators are led by a pair of seniors, Samantha Mattice and Shelby Brown. Junior Lauren Kinzle also should be a factor, along with Jane Miller and Sierra Brown.
Other Gators to watch are Julianne Vice, Savannah Gaffney, Shannon Molvin and incoming freshman Sarah Carter.
Glendale Mountain Ridge finished ninth a year ago, and coach Rich Stein thinks that this year’s group might have more depth.
The team’s top runners are seniors Christiana Benites and Cari Steen and freshman Tatum Stafford.
Neil Young is switching from coaching boys to the girls this season at Glendale Cactus, and hopes for a top-five finish. Many of his athletes participated in the Arizona Road Racers Summer Series.
The Cobras will be led by juniors Kenzi Fitzgerald and Libby Rath, sophomore Drianna Mustin and freshman Alexis Wilkes.
Phoenix Greenway always seems to be competitive, and this year’s version should be no different.
Leading the way are senior Summer Ankrum and sophomore Hailey Femrite.
Scottsdale Saguaro is moving up from Division III to Division II, and coach John Prather has a good group.
The team is led by junior Jelani Huma, also a starting guard on the school’s state championship basketball team. Other key runners are senior Megan Boyd and sophomore Hailey Prestwood.
The teams from Glendale High and Phoenix Sierra Linda are attempting to make some strides.
Glendale is led by Natalia Gonzales, and Sierra Linda’s top runner is Zyanne Baxter.
Other area teams in the D-I top 10 and their top returnees: No. 6 Scottsdale Chaparral (Ali Kallner), No. 7 Phoenix Pinnacle (Andrea Arriaga), Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor (Kyra Lopez).
Flagstaff High appears to be in a good position to repeat in Division II.
The Eagles have three top 10 finishers returning, including champion Tatiana Gillick. The others are Alix Manci and Rae Johnson.
Other teams that could challenge and their top returnees: Cave Creek Cactus Shadows (Sloane Myers-Lenz), Phoenix Arcadia (Megan Reniewicki) and Glendale Ironwood (Shea Bonine).
In Division III, defending champion Page High lost its top three finishers (all in the top 10) to graduation. Senior Tomeka Church will have to lead this year’s group.
Second-place Cottonwood Mingus is led by returning senior Justine Taylor. No. 3 Chinle has Tamarie Tracey back. Junior Danielle Smiley is back to lead No. 10 Fort Defiance Window Rock.
Among D-III individuals, Fountain Hills sophomore Sierra Jarriel is back, as is Courtney Lewis of River Valley.
In Division IV, Keams Canyon Hopi is the favorite to pick up another title trophy with three seniors who finished in the top 10 – Kaitlyn Billy, Christen Ben and Claryn Josytewa.
Other key teams and their top returnees: Flagstaff Northland Prep (Regan Gee), Ganado (individual champion Nikesha Eagleman), Scottsdale Prep (Charlotte Moore), Whiteriver Alchesay (Carmilyn Pinal), Phoenix Northwest Christian (Megan Davis) and Sanders Valley (Kristen Quigley).