Any doubts fans, boosters, coaches and runners might have harbored about how competitive the Division III, Section II cross country championships were when they were contested Oct. 29 in Flagstaff, were erased at the state championships.
In the finals, held Nov. 6 in Cave Creek, D-III, S-II teams dominated in both the girls’ and boys’ races.
Among the girls, Page was first, Chinle second and Flagstaff third.
In boys’ competition, Chinle ran to first, Flagstaff claimed second and Mingus was third.
All of those schools were members of the rugged Division III, Section II and with the Payson High School teams.
Individually among the girls, Rolanda Jumbo lived up to her lofty reputation as one of the finest runners in the country by finishing first in 18:34.66, more than 14 seconds faster than the runner-up. Amazingly, she ran at a 5:59.5 pace over the 5K course.
Among the boys, Tuba City’s Billy Orman dominated with in 15:03.32 — almost 44 seconds faster than the second-place finishers.
The gold medal showings of Jumbo and Orman are even more proof that year in and year out the Northern Arizona reservation schools produce some of the state’s finest long-distance runners.
Unfortunately, when the Arizona Interscholastic Association did away with the previous Conference-Region alignment and replaced it with Division-Section configuration, Payson was placed in the D-III, S-II with the reservation schools and with former 4A II members Flagstaff and Mingus.
This meant when the PHS cross country teams competed Oct. 29 in the sectional meet, they were facing the finest teams and individual runners in the state.
With that, both cross country teams failed to qualify for state, even though they had turned in commendable showings during the regular season, including winning the Fountain Hills Invitational championships in September and showing well at the Queen Creek Desert Twilight Cross Country festival in October.
At the D-III, S-II meet in Flagstaff, the Longhorn boys compiled 390 points to finish 13th among the 17 schools in the sectional run. The reservation teams and those from the old 4A II ranks dominated, with Chinle taking first, Flagstaff second and Tuba City third.
The Lady Horns amassed 331 points to finish 14th of 16 schools. Chinle (51) slipped past runner-up Page (58) for the sectional title. Flagstaff (74) was third.
Individually, Ezra White — Payson’s ace all season long — ran to 54th place in the 111-runner field. White was clocked in 18:09.5 over the 3-mile course. Dawson Beeson was second among the Payson runners and 77th overall in 19:25.5.
Tanner Hodges was 82nd in 19:37.8 and Trent Hodges took 84th in 19:42.
In the 105-runner girls field, Lady Horn Jacquelyn Oesterblad claimed 51st in 22:40.3.
Payson sophomore Ashley Spear was 62nd in 23:27.5 and teammate Madi Flake ran to 66th in 23:36.3.
Running an ET of 24:08.4, Longhorn Sarah Cluff was 73rd.
Lauren Nossek took 86th, covering the course in 24:59.8.