All the other meets and practices were a warm-up.
At Mesa Mountain View, the boys cross-country team has focused all its efforts on the season-ending 5A-I state meet. The time is here and the Toros feel they are in the right spot.
“We have done the work physically, they have set themselves up mentally and I like our confidence right now,” first-year Toros coach Kris Alexander said. “Now we have to see how it plays out. Anything can happen.”
The state meet is set for Saturday at Cave Creek Golf Course in Phoenix. All six of the state classes and divisions will compete, with the Class 5A-I boys race scheduled for 1 p.m.
Mountain View enters as the top-ranked team in the latest 5A-I coaches poll, a few points in front of Phoenix Alhambra, the defending state champ, and Laveen Cesar Chavez.
Mountain View (167) finished third at last season’s state meet, trailing Alhambra (64) and Phoenix Desert Vista (122), which enters the meet ranked fourth this season.
“We’re confident, but we know it is going to be a fight,” Toros junior Tyler Bingham said. “We feel if we all run to our abilities, we like our chances. It’s exciting.”
All season, the Toros have preached togetherness. They want their pack of four or five runners to intimidate the rest of the field.
“All season, it has been about getting all our guys together,” said Alexander, who guided the Phoenix Mountain Pointe girls to a fourth-place finish last year. “Our strength is our team. Our focus has not changed. We wanted to be ready for state, and we feel like we are.”
The proof of the Toros’ ability to run as a team came at last weekend’s East Valley Region meet. Mountain View’s top runners finished within 40 seconds of each other, cutting about 30 seconds off where they were at the start of the season.
The Toros return one of the top individual finishers from last season in senior D.J. Johnson, who placed fourth overall. Cesar Chavez’s Humberto Gonzales is the top returner after placing second a year ago.
Mountain View’s other top returnees are Tyler Fletcher, who placed 25th last season, and Clint Brady, who came in 41st.
It has been the work of those three who have solidified the Toros’ lineup and made the team a force all season.
“It seems like every year this is when we are at our best,” Johnson said. “We’re able to just go guts-to-the-wall. We’re expecting to run our best, and everything else will go from there.”
“This year’s team is much deeper,” Brady said. “Last year it was D.J. running No. 1 and everyone else following. This year we know we can all have a big day, and it doesn’t matter who it is. The goal is for the team to win.”
State cross-country championships
Cave Creek Golf Course, 15202 N. 19th Ave., Phoenix (3.1-mile course)
Schedule: 9 a.m. 4A Division II boys; 9:25 a.m. 4A Division I girls; 9:50 a.m. 3A boys; 10:15 a.m. 4A Division II girls; 10:40 a.m. 4A Division I boys; 11:05 a.m. 3A girls; 1 p.m. 5A Division I boys; 1:25 p.m. 5A Division II girls; 1:50 p.m.; 1A/2A boys; 2:15 p.m. 5A Division I girls; 2:40 p.m. 5A Division II boys; 3:05 p.m. 1A/2A girls
Teams to watch: Mountain View, Desert Vista, Highland, Red Mountain, Phoenix Alhambra, Laveen Cesar Chavez
Individuals: D.J. Johnson, Mountain View; Cory Breinholt, Highland; Ryan Nelson, Desert Vista; Dan Wilson, Mountain Pointe; Jon Brown, Highland; Carlos Martinez, Dobson; Will Firth, Brophy
Teams to watch: Xavier, defending state champ; Mountain View, Corona del Sol, Desert Vista, Glendale Mountain Ridge
Individuals: Jessica Tonn, Xavier; Ann Bawden, Highland; Taylor Cole, Hamilton; Danica Ganje, Corona del Sol; Erin Leonard, Desert Vista; Elena Prakelt, Basha; Sarah Penney, Xavier
Teams to watch: Phoenix Sunnyside, Phoenix Camelback, Glendale Ironwood Ridge, Horizon
Individuals: Derek Stanek, Horizon; Adam Adamson, Phoenix Pinnacle; Kevin Jankunas, Horizon; Amir Shirif, Desert Ridge
Teams to watch: Tucson Ironwood Ridge, Pinnacle, Marana Mountain View, Sunnyside
Individuals: Lacey Kalinen, Pinnacle; Christen Collins, Pinnacle; Dana Stull, Pinnacle; Kay Shaeffer, Marcos de Niza
Teams to watch: Phoenix Shadow Mountain, Tucson Catalina Foothills, Cave Creek Cactus Shadows, Tucson Sabino
Individuals: Zach Wynn, Saguaro; Carlos Roa, McClintock; Porter Marsh, Chaparral
Teams to watch: Saguaro, Chaparral, Glendale Sandra Day O’Connor, Sabino, Nogales
Individuals: Carolyn Brown, Saguaro; Loren Wynn, Saguaro; Madison Pohle, Chaparral; Olivia Brancati, Saguaro
Teams to watch: Cottonwood Mingus, Rio Rico, Tucson Catalina, Flagstaff
Individuals: Kevin Rayes, Arcadia; Kyle Glass, Gilbert Higley; Sherod Hardt, Queen Creek; Andrew Meyers, Higley; Christian Markey, Arcadia
Teams to watch: Rio Rico, Flagstaff, Page, Prescott Valley Bradshaw Mountain
Individuals: Tess Berghoff, Arcadia; Taylor DeLaVeaga, Perry; Ashley Workman, Queen Creek; Jordan Plichta, Seton Catholic; Vanessa Hunt, Queen Creek
Teams to watch: Keams Canyon Hopi, Scottsdale Christian, Valley Christian
Individuals: Sean Newport, Valley Christian; Blake Bottle, Scottsdale Christian; Steven Rachocki, Tempe Prep; Micha Ramos, Surrey Garden
Teams to watch: Hopi, Flagstaff Northland Prep
Individuals: Kylie Crawford, Valley Christian; Lauren Edgett, Scottsdale Christian; Michal Cantrell, Surrey Garden