MHS junior Jesse Gaines led the team by finishing fourth in the sectional. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

With one of their top runners sidelined and a team leader ailing, the Maricopa Rams’ goal of returning to the state cross country championships looked bleak Friday afternoon. [quote_box_right]Boys’ State Qualifiers Division II Section IV
Campo Verde 25
Mesquite 102
Queen Creek 111
McClintock 124
Maricopa 142
Chaparral 152
Arcadia 185[/quote_box_right]

But a sophomore stepped up in a big way to help Maricopa to a fifth-place finish in the Division II Section IV competition. The boys will run in the state meet on Saturday.

The Maricopa boys’ team has been very competitive all season. Friday, however, senior Sam Coles was absent and senior John Blodgett was under the weather.

Coming into the meet, sophomore Alec Kramarczyk’s best time in the 3.1-mile race was 18 minutes flat at the Nike Desert Twilight on Sept. 30, when he finished 71st. Friday, Kramarczyk made himself Maricopa’s No. 2 runner by placing 13th and posting a personal-best time of 17:47.

Kramarczyk, whose father Jeff owns Crate Coffee, smiled wide when he said it was the coffee that gave him the surprise boost. He was the only Maricopa runner to set a personal record (PR) Friday. Now he wants to “have fun” at the state meet.

“I want to get my time down to the 16s,” he said.

At sectionals, the top seven teams and the top 25 individuals qualified for the state championship. Fourteen boys’ teams competed.

Sophomore Alec Kramarczyk ran a personal record in Friday's 5K to finish 13th overall and second on the team. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson
Sophomore Alec Kramarczyk ran a personal record in Friday’s 5K to finish 13th overall and second on the team. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Maricopa junior Jesse Gaines again was the team’s top runner. He finished fourth in 17:23. His best time in the 5K is 17:15.

Blodgett also qualified individually despite not having his best race. He finished 20th in 18:14, nearly a minute off his personal best time set last season. He has been a vocal team leader, however, in setting high goals for the Rams.

“I’m pretty stoked,” Blodgett said, “especially after we did it last year and tried to do it again this year. I’m going to try to PR in my last race ever in cross country.”

Senior Mark Mwangi scored points for the Rams by finishing 37th in 17:51. Junior Giovanni Hernandez was the No. 5 runner in 68th place in 20:36.

Also in the field, junior Brady Hunsaker finished 76th (20:46) and Caleb Wilson 88th (22:27).

Coach Heather Abel said Coles will return to the team this week and compete in the state meet. He previously set a qualifying time of 17:46.3 at the Nike Desert Twilight.

Campo Verde easily won the boys’ meet with 25 points. It had five runners in the top 10, led by the outstanding sophomore Rylan Stubbs (he has run under 16 minutes three times this season).

The Maricopa girls finished last in their team competition. Junior Megan Carr was the Rams’ top runner. She finished in 57st place. Senior Aisawan Chanproprah was 68th.