Maricopa teams competed in the AIA cross country state championships. Photo by Adam Wolfe

The Maricopa High School cross country team competed well at the Arizona Interscholastic Association State Cross Country Meet at Cave Creek Golf Course Saturday afternoon.

The boys’ team finished in 23rd place overall in the team competition. This was the Rams best finish since they took fifth overall in 2011.

The course featured many hills and was designed to push each runner to their limit. Since the Rams didn’t have much experience with hills, the course was exceptionally tough. However, both the boys’ team and the girls’ team ran as a pack for much of the race pushed each other to impressive finishes.

“They did pretty well,” MHS cross country head coach Heather Abel said. “We had a couple of injuries that hurt a little bit, but we had the boys’ team that raced really well. I’m proud of all of our runners today.”

On the boys’ side, 249 athletes competed at the state meet. Maricopa sophomore Sam Coles finished the race in a time of 18:03 to edge out senior Raven Shaw by one second for the team’s best time. Coles, Shaw and junior team captain John Blodgett were neck and neck throughout the race and finished in 74th place, 77th place and 86th place respectively. Junior Jayden Jensen crossed the finish line just over 30 seconds after the lead pack in 133rd place, and sophomore Jose Villigram rounded out Maricopa’s top five in 172nd place.

Junior Mark Mwangi and sophomore Jesse Gaines also ran for the team, but their finishes of 201st place and 225th place were not counted toward the team score.

“Usually we don’t have many hills, but this one we had a lot of hills and a lot more dirt, so I think we did OK for what this course was,” Coles said. “Usually we run close together because that’s what our times are at, but it also helps with the team aspect of pushing each other.”

On the girls’ side, top contender and lead runner senior Jada Wright was injured during the race and wasn’t able to finish. The loss of Wright hurt the team’s overall standings, but the girls still managed to take 32nd place overall in the team competition.

For individuals, there were 241 girls running for the Division II state title. Sophomore Megan Carr led the way for the Rams as she finished in 22:18 and took 86th place overall. Just one second behind her was junior exchange student Fiona Thiele in 87th place. Sophomore Adia Carr was the next Maricopa finisher in 188th place, and sophomores Teresa Flores and Tori Martin rounded out the Rams top five 205th and 209th place respectively.

Freshman Alexandra Mask also ran for Maricopa and was able to finish in 221st place.

“The boys ran exceptionally well today, and I’m just super proud of all of the boys and girls,” Abel said.

The course was rigorous, but the young Rams were able to set the bar high for the team’s goals next year. Maricopa will only lose four total runners, so expectations will be high for the 2016 team.

“We’re going to take two weeks off and pick it back up just before Thanksgiving,” Blodgett said. “We’ll just train through the winter and start lifting more weights for track season.”