The Red Mountain girls cross country runners discarded their watches before they stepped to the starting line at the state cross country meet.
By this time in the season it is all about trusting the work involved in the process of the season.
There was no need to monitor their splits on every passing mile Saturday at Cave Creek Golf Course. It was a matter of knowing their bodies, their pace and when to push for more at just the right time.
The result was a fifth-place finish at the Division I state, which is believed to be the highest finish at the state meet since the 1990s, maybe as far back as when the Mountain Lions won it all in 1992.
“When I saw they weren’t wearing their watches, it matched our theme of the day,” Red Mountain coach Brent Krieg said. “We weren’t concerned with times as much as running their best race. We can get caught up with times, but sometimes you have to just run and not worry about every click on the watch.”
It led to the top finish for Mesa schools as sophomore Niki Hemmerlin led the way with a time of 19:59 on the hilly, 3.1-mile course to finish 10th overall and ninth in the team race standings.
“I wanted to do everything I could for the team,” Hemmerlin said. “We have been trusting the process and each other all year, and it paid off today.”
She was followed by senior Jacquelin Santos (20:50) and freshman Brenna Bourgeois (20:53), who finished 29th and 31st in the team standing race.
“It is pretty special to finish that high (as a team) my senior year,” said Santos, the only senior in the top five. “This group has been working all year for this and we put everything we had into this race.”
Freshman Kate Brockman (42nd, 21:14) and Riley Boyer (62nd, 21:51) were the next to cross the finish line for the Mountain Lions to make sure Red Mountain finished ahead of 10th place Mountain View and 11th place Skyline.
The Toros were led by junior Kailey Welch, who finished 11th in a time of 20:05 with freshman Abigail Welch coming in 39th at 21:11.
Skyline was paced by Carlene Hamilton as finished as medalist at 16th place in 20:13. She was joined by Silicea Price, who finished 51st with a time of 21:27, and teammate Taryn Bickle was close behind at 54th in 21:33.
The final race was a culmination of hard work, breaking through the mental barriers and crossing that finish line one last time.
“These girls deserve this as much time as they have put in and the work that goes along with it,” Krieg said. “It’s a credit to them to end the season with this kind of effort. I couldn’t have asked for anything more from them.”
– Jason P. Skoda is a senior writer for MyNewsMesa.com. Send Mesa-based story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.