The MHS cross country team is finishing up their final practices before they attempt to qualify for the AIA Division III state meet on Saturday. Photo by Adam Wolfe

Talent and positive attitudes are paying off.

Both the Maricopa High School boys’ and girls’ cross country teams have a chance to qualify for the Arizona Interscholastic Association Division II State Cross Country Meet during the Section II finals on Saturday.

Each team is expected to qualify individual runners regardless of team results, but the teams putting themselves in position is a tribute to how much they have improved throughout the year.

“Our boys have made great improvements from the beginning,” assistant coach Manuel “Grandpa” Quintana said. “Our section down south is, I believe, the hardest section of all the divisions, but each boy has improved basically every race we’ve had. They’ve showed they want to go to state, and I believe they’re going to do it.”

In order to qualify as a team, the Rams will need to finish in the top 50 percent of the teams in the sectional meet. For both teams, that means their top five runners will need to finish fast enough for their average time to be ninth or better in the 17 team field.

“For the boys, we need to run together as a pack and have Raven (Shaw) run under 17 minutes and the rest of the boys follow up close to that,” head coach Heather Abel said. “No matter what we do, it’s going to be close, but they have a shot.

“For the girls, I’m not sure the section is as competitive, so we have a shot there as well,” Abel added. “It’s dependent upon how our fifth girl does. That will be key for us.”

The team’s improvement over last year can be attributed to an improved talent pool and hard work in the offseason. The boys’ team wasn’t close to qualifying for the state meet last season, and the girls didn’t have enough athletes to field a team. Maricopa’s cross country program has shown tremendous growth and potential in just one year.

“We have a lot of good talent on both the boys and girls sides, so we are confident heading into sectionals on Saturday,” assistant coach Danielle Byers said. “I think the boys could qualify, and the girls have an outside chance. We’re just going to have to go and see what everyone’s got and hope for the best.”
[quote_right]”They’ve showed they want to go to state, and I believe they’re going to do it.”[/quote_right]
For the athletes, the goal of reaching the state meet was set in the offseason, and the reality of that goal coming to light is simply a culmination of their hard work throughout the year and offseason.

“Saturday we have our sectional meet, and that’s where all the boys and girls will come and hopefully build our way to state,” senior runner Raven Shaw said. “We are at the point where everything is looking good for me and for the team.”

Sophomore runner Megan Carr added, “I think that we’re going to do really well and accomplish our goal of making it to state.”