Lucky Schreiner hasn't found the winner's circle very often this year in cross country invitationals. It's not because he doesn't have talent.
Schreiner, a junior at Campo Verde, has matched up in three invitationals this season with Corona del Sol's Nathan Rodriguez and Ryan Normand. The Corona duo has finished 1-2 in those races with Schreiner usually fairly close 15 to 20 seconds behind. But that's the trouble. Schreiner's been just a little behind.
Schreiner's fortunes could change on Saturday, however, at the Division II state meet Saturday at 9:15 a.m. at Cave Creek Golf Course. Schreiner won't have to contend with Rodriguez and Normand, who are racing in the D-I meet. He won't have to compete with Division III foes like Page's Jeffery Miller or Rio Rico's Oscar Amaya, or Tuba City's Anthony Masayesva. They potentially were Schreiner's competition at state this year had Campo Verde remained in D-III as they were in 2011 and 2012 when Schreiner was a freshman and sophomore.
Schreiner wasn't at the level to compete with some of the top D-III runners his freshman year. Most freshman aren't, that's just fact. But with encouragement from home and an influx of confidence, Schreiner has made strides enabling him to run with anyone regardless of division.
"It was all about putting in the work," Schreiner said. "My freshman year I was running more for fun.I got into watching my brother (Jacob) run when he was at Mesquite. I would do the coaches workouts and that was about it. I didn't run track my freshman year, but my dad kind of pushed me to be more serious about it."
So Schreiner headed to a cross country camp the summer prior to his sophomore season. He began working harder, focusing more. Nothing magical. He churned out better times in the 2012 cross country season and those results stoked the fire even more.
For perspective, Schreiner improved his time at the 2011 state cross country meet as a freshman from 19 minutes, 11 seconds to 17:01 last year as a sophomore -- improvement via place from 95th to 20th.
"I was pretty surprised at how high I finished," Schreiner said. " I thought the top 15 got medals, but found out they went to the top 21. When they were handing out medals, I was off running my cool down. They were yelling at me to come get my medal. One of my teammates ended up accepting it for me."
So while his sophomore season in cross country pushed him closer to the top, he still was not there. This year's he blossomed to the point of competing with anyone in the state -- save perhaps Rodriguez and Normand.
"You could see he was coming along," Campo Verde cross country coach Josh Applebach said. "Even that first year he had tons of potential. He had a great winter training his sophomore year. He was more serious....
"The first time he ran a timed mile in track he ran 4:29. When I saw that I said I have to do some homework to help him as much as I can. We've both come a long way since."
Schreiner has emerged even stronger from last year's spring track season to this fall. Schreiner placed second at state in D-II last spring in the 1,600 meters and 3,200 meters. He lost both races by a second or two to Canyon del Oro senior Andrew Garcia. Schreiner is now solidly in the hunt for the 2013 D-II title, if not the favorite in some circles, among a handful of runners.
Schreiner is expected to battle Catalina Foothills Harvey Nelson, Notre Dame Prep's Jack Hovland and as many as six or seven others for D-II individual honors. Last week Schreiner bested Nelson by 18 seconds at the D-II Section II state qualifier. The first week of October he was one second faster than Nelson for sixth overall at the prestigious Desert Twilight Invite.
"One of this biggest assets he has is being an intelligent kid," Applebach said. "He's in all AP classes. He's careful to pay attention to every detail. With him it's the total package. He's able to make wise decisions on the fly."
Perhaps come mid-morning Saturday, Schreiner will have proven he's good and Lucky.