The Maricopa boys cross country meet did not have to travel far for Wednesday's meet.

It’s been a while since Maricopa High School has been able to host a cross country meet. Three years, in fact. So a three-team dual meet at Copper Sky Regional Park on Wednesday was a small victory by itself.

It was a bit of a warm-up for Friday night’s scheduled Nike Desert Twilight meet in Casa Grande. It also allowed them to go nearly one-on-one with a very good Mesquite High School team. Coronado High School also sent runners but not enough for a team score.

With most of the Rams runners well off their best times of the season, Maricopa finished second in both the boys’ and the girls’ competition at Copper Sky.

Junior Jesse Gaines finished the 5K course fifth behind four Mesquite runners in 18:47. Senior John Blodgett was right behind him in 18:49. Junior Sam Coles was seventh in 19:03.

Sophomore Alec Kramarczyk and senior Mark Mwangi filled the top five spots for Maricopa in ninth and 10th place.

In the much smaller field of girls, junior Megan Carr led the Rams with a fifth place finish in 24.21. Senior Aisawan Chanpropah was seventh in 28:17, followed by senior Tori Martin, Evelyn Young, freshman Juni Hall and Alexandra Mask in order.

Coach Heather Abel said the boys’ team has had a strong season, winning their dual meets and posting personal best times in the big invitationals as they try to return to the state championship meet.

Senior John Blodgett said the team is on track to return to state. His best time of the season so far was 17:28, posted at the Ojo Rojo Invitational Sept. 17. He said he wants to get his time under 17 minutes.

Four of the boys are already on Maricopa’s all-time list of top 20 times. That includes Blodgett and Coles as well as Gaines and Mwangi.

“My goal is to make it to state and for the team to make it to state as well,” Gaines said. “My personal goal is to get into the 16s.”

Gaines’ personal best, posted last year, is 17:22.

Chanpropah was the first runner of the season to post a personal record, running 28:31 at the Chandler Invite on Sept. 3. But she knocked that down much further to 26:48 in the Ojo Rojo. The girls have struggled to field a consistent team of six (by contrast there were 17 boys running at Copper Sky), but those who show up are coming into form just as the boys are improving with every big invitational.

The Ojo Rojo meet was good to a lot of Maricopa runners. Fourteen registered season bests or personal bests.

After the Nike Desert Twilight, the Rams are scheduled for the Rio Rico Rattler Invitational on Oct. 15.