All-Tribune Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year — Danielle Jones, Desert Vista
Season highlights: For someone who prefers the 800 and 1,600 meter races, Dani Jones is turning into a heck of a cross country runner. Jones is already among the all-time best in Arizona in both the 800 and 1,600, but this year developed into one of the top racers in not just Arizona, but the nation.
No one in Arizona beat Jones this season. She won at the Sole Sports Invitational, at the Desert Twilight and at the Division I state championships. Her lone regular season defeat came in California when she finished sixth in the Woodbridge Invitational. Jones was the lead runner on a young Desert Vista team that ended Xavier’s run of Division I state titles at six. Desert Vista is now poised for a run of titles. Jones’ younger sister Baylee, a freshman, was runner-up at the Division I state meet, and four out of the Thunder’s top seven runners were freshmen.
Jones jumped into the national conversation with her win at the Desert Twilight, when she erased a significant deficit in the final 400 meters to beat 2012 Virginia champion and 2013 state runner-up Hannah Christen. Her 5k time of 17 minutes, 19.30 seconds was the fastest in meet history. On the same course in late November, Jones used another strong closing kick to finish fourth at the Nike Southwest Regional meet.
Jones earned a trip to Eugene for the Nike Cross Nationals on Dec. 7, where she placed 15th out of a field of 198 of the best runners in the country.
Coach of the Year: Jeff Messer, Desert Vista: Messer knows how to pick programs. He was coaching at Xavier during the school’s run of six straight state titles and took over a Desert Vista program that has always been in the title conversation, including three runner-up finishes to the Gators during that span. Messer knew he had a star at Desert Vista in Dani Jones, but cross country titles are won with more than just a star and Messer found the right touch with a team that had four freshmen running at the state meet. It helps that one of those freshmen is Baylee Jones, who finished second to sister Dani at state. But Messer helped the rapid development of freshmen Sabrina Camino, Madi Bucci and Amanda Davis, as well as sophomore Emily Smith to put the Thunder in great position for a run at multiple titles.
All-Tribune First Team
Name Yr. School Comment
Danielle Jones Jr. Desert Vista Div. I champ being recognized as one of the best in the nation
Baylee Jones Fr. Desert Vista Div. I runner-up will set sights on catching sister next year
Lauren Ellsworth Jr. Highland Had very good year, was 5th at Desert Twilight, 3rd in Div. I
Huston Jones Sr. Mountain View Ran best in the big meets, was 5th in Div. I
Kelly Naumann Jr. Corona del Sol Came on strong late in season, won section meet and was 4th in Div. I
Alice Jensen Jr. Mesquite Very strong season capped by 6th place finish in Div. I
Allyson Girard Jr. Highland Could usually be found near front; was 7th in Div. I
All-Tribune Second Team
Name Yr. School Comment
Taryn Estavillo Jr. Red Mountain Won Mesa City meet, placed 12th at Div. I meet
Nicole Hicks Sr. Desert Vista Was solid leader as lone senior on state champions’ roster
Alexis Nichols So. Chandler Made huge strides this year; was Chandler City champ
Lucy Hilarides Jr. Queen Creek Was runner-up in sectional meet to lead Bulldogs
Sarah Ziemba Sr. Skyline Had strong season, capped by 9th place finish in Div. I
Madi Bucci Fr. Desert Vista Part of pack of young Thunder runners; was 17th in Div. I
Mason Swenson So. Corona del Sol 15th at Div. I meet; 4th at sectional race for Aztecs
Apache Junction – Allyssa Willis, Jr.; Basha – Sadie Deem, Jr.; Courtney Goodrich, Sr.; Campo Verde – Jessica Watts, Jr.; Corona del Sol – Sammie Moore, Sr.; Desert Vista – Amanda Davis, Fr.; Emily Smith, So.; Sabrina Camino, Fr.; Dobson – Melody Mass, Sr.; Hamilton – Xury Deputy, Sr.; McKenna Ebiner, So.; Highland – Adeline Montgomery, Jr.; Marisa Kennedy, Fr.; Horizon Honors – Mikaela Martin, Sr.; Mountain Pointe – Ramsay Chancellor, Sr.; Mountain View – Madey Brooks, Sr.; Cherokee Davis, Sr.; Summer Stapley, Sr.; Perry – Gabby Ybarra, Jr.; Taylor Slevin, Sr.; Briana Junior, Fr.; Queen Creek – Alexus Navarro, Fr. ; Red Mountain – Mariah Montoya, Sr.; Corinne Clarkson, So.; Skyline – Jessie Williams, Jr.