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In Division I, the boys team race is wide open, which favors the traditional power teams that have a large number of athletes in the program. That means look for Desert Vista, Highland, Mountain View and Corona del Sol to occupy spots in the top 5 this year. Individually, Corona del Sol’s Marcus Wheeler is the top returner. It’ll be interesting to see how Wheeler adjusts to running solo after a year of running with (or just behind) teammates Nathan Rodriguez and Ryan Normand. The trio finished 1, 2, 3 at the state meet a year ago, and Wheeler gained a lot from training and competing with his older teammates. Can he match that this year as he takes over the helm of the favorite? That’s the biggest question going into the season.
Arizona has enjoyed a slow, steady rise to track prominence nationwide. Much of that rise was aided by the Chandler girls program, which won two Nike Team National titles, and individuals like Billy Orman, Devon Allen and Bernie Montoya.
2013 Tribune Boys Runner of the Year – Nate Rodriguez, Corona del Sol
(L-R) Corona del Sol's Nate Rodriguez, Ryan Normand and Marcus Wheeler lead during the Divison I boys state cross country meet at Cave Creek Golf Course on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013. [David Jolkovski/AFN]
After coming in first, Corona del Sol's Nate Rodriguez puts his arm around Ryan Normand, who came in second during the Division I boys state cross country meet at Cave Creek Golf Course on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013. [David Jolkovski/AFN]
Division I, Section I
The first of three rounds went to Corona de Sol.
Corona del Sol's Nathan Rodriguez won the boys meet, followed by teamamte Ryan Normand.
Dani Jones set the tempo and the young’ens followed. Desert Vista stopped Xavier’s six-year reign as the Division I girls cross country state champions with Jones, a junior, winning the individual title. It could lead to a string of championships, as four of the top seven competitors were freshmen. Jones also set an Arizona standard after she is believed to have the highest ever finish in the 10th annual Nike Cross Nationals in Portland, Ore., after she earned All-American status after finishing 15th overall. Led by Nate Rodriguez and unmatched depth, the Corona del Sol boys took the top three spots in state for the first time in cross country history in rolling to the state championship. It capped an undefeated season for Rodriguez — who won every meet he raced in — and the Aztecs’ Ryan Normand and Marcus Wheeler joined Rodriguez to form one of the best trios in state history
Corona del Sol's Ryan Normand competes in the Desert Twilight Classic at Toka Sticks golf course in Mesa, Friday, Oct. 4, 2013. [Tim Hacker/ Tribune]
Corona del Sol boys and Highland girls cross country teams were the big winners at the 41st edition of the Doug Conley Invitational on Saturday.
Who's going to stop Corona del Sol's boys and Mountain View's girls cross country teams?
For the first time in three years, there will be a new king and queen of high school cross country in Arizona.
Corona del Sol's Nate Rodriguez, right, and Ryan Normand lead Campo Verde's Lucky Schreiner nearing the midway point of the Gold Race during the Sole Sports Cross Country Invitational on Monday, Sept. 2, 2013 at Silverado Golf Course in Scottsdale. Rodriguez went on to win the season-opening race, with Normand finishing second.
Gold Race leaders Nate Rodriguez, right, and Ryan Normand, center, of Corona del Sol, and Campo Verde's Lucky Schreiner compete in the Sole Sports Cross Country Invitational on Monday, Sept. 2, 2013 in Scottsdale.
2013 Track and Field state Championships
Someday, the talent pool will dry up enough and the Chandler High girls track program will be challenged for state supremacy. That day, however, is not in the immediate future.
Corona del Sol's Ryan Normand competes in the Division I Boys Cross Country State Championships, Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012 at the Cave Creek Golf Course in Phoenix. Normand finished sixth. [Tim Hacker/Tribune]
Corona del Sol's Nate Rodriguez is followed by teammate Ryan Normand during the early part of the Division I Boys Cross Country State Championships, Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012 at the Cave Creek Golf Course in Phoenix. [Tim Hacker/Tribune]
The cross country season gets a shakeup on Friday when many of the state’s top teams head to the Toka Sticks Golf Course in Mesa for the sixth annual Desert Twilight.