By winning the Alchesay Invitational championship, the Longhorn boys' cross country team has become a legitimate contender to claim the East regional championship.
The victory, which came Oct. 10 in Whiteriver, was the boys team's first invitational crown in the past two seasons.
What made the win even more meaningful for coach Chuck Hardt and his charges was the fact that at the meet was a trio of the teams the Horns will battle at the East regional championships to be held Oct. 26 in Snowflake Snowflake, Blue Ridge and Alchesay.
In winning the title, the boys finished with 48 points just one less than host, and runner-up, Alchesay. Trailing the Horns and Falcons were Holbrook (68), Blue Ridge (83) and Snowflake (85).
Whipping Alchesay was a feather in the Horns' state cap in that the Falcons are defending East regional champions and opened the season as odds-on favorites to repeat the title.
Fueling the Horns narrow victory were the efforts of five varsity runners who finished in the top 20. They included Joe Behrens (third; 18:44), Brian Langeliers (fourth; 18:45), Daniel Jacobs (10th; 19:18), Danny Malloy (15th; 20:05) and Martin Garcia (16th; 20:06).
The team was able to pull off the upset without one of its premier runners. Sophomore Justin Rodgers, who has been the Horns' ace most of season, could not participate due to family obligations, coach Hardt said.
With him in the lineup at the regional championships, the Horns figure to be ever more formidable.
In junior varsity action at Alchesay, Tanner Morgan, Josh Sprinkle and Rick Ramos finished second, third and fifth. Morgan was clocked in 21:09, Sprinkle in 22:21 and Ramos in 22:26.
At the Dave Dorrer Invitational
Following the team's win in Whiteriver, the Horns returned to action Oct. 13 at Phoenix Thunderbird Park. There, Hardt gave the sophomore runners the option of competing in the junior varsity or varsity competition.
Because most chose to participate as jayvees, the Horns didn't field a full varsity contingent.
The only varsity runners were Daniel Jacobs (66th; 17:27), Martin Garcia (94th; 18:13) and Danny Malloy (18:20).
In JV action, Brian Langeliers was 18th (16:55) and Josh Dahm 57th (18:26). Also entered from PHS were Tanner Morgan (88th; 19:56), Josh Sprinkle (104th; 20:51) and Steve Colbertson (136th; 25:38). Colbertson, a newcomer, was running in only his second race of the season.