Individually, the members of the Valley Christian squad were not championship-caliber. Collectively, the Trojans proved they were more than worthy of a championship.
Despite no individual champions, Valley Christian returned to the top of the heap, winning its 8th title in 12 years on Saturday at the Division IV state track championships at Mesa Community College. The Trojans had 60 points, while St. Johns and Arizona Lutheran tied for second with 53.5 points.
“Toward the end of the year, we really started to feel we had a shot, but at the beginning, we were thinking, how are we going to piece this together this year,” said Valley Christian coach Dan Kuyper. “There’s real satisfaction because it’s more of a blue-collar win this year. I always like hard working teams and these guys were really about that. We didn’t have a lot of fabulous talent, just hard work.”
Valley Chrstian’s only win came in the 4x800 relay, as Austin Weinland, Alec Chavez, Matt Benninger and Nathan Basinger rolled to victory in 8:12.88. Other than a second-place finish in the 4x400, the Trojans put together enough third, fourth and fifth-place finishes to claim the championship.
“We had a good middle-distance group and I always like to build a team around middle distance,” Kuyper said. “That gave us enough to put us over the top.”
Jacob Moore placed third in the pole vault (12-6); Andrew Sullivan was third in the 110-high hurdles in 15.59 (he was also fourth in the 300 hurdles) and Dustin Nelson was third in the 100 in 11.47.
Both seniors, Sullivan and Nelson (and Trent Maselink) were out for track for the first time this year and their addition proved just what the Trojans needed.
“This group, we kind of strung it together,” Kuyper said. “And those seniors really helped.”
Benninger also added seven more points with his fourth-place finish in the 1,600 and his seventh-place effort in the 800.
Rounding out the scoring for the Trojans were Tyler St. James, fifth in the high jump (5-10); Trent Maselink, fifth in the 300 hurdles (42.02) and Austin Weinland, seveth in the 400 (52.17).
Other East Valley individual placers
Tempe Prep - Caleb Peckham, 3rd in 3,200 (10:02.49); Levi Hartzler 5th in shot put (42-7 ¼); Eddie LeBeau 7th in shot put (42-2 ¼); Joseph Bryant 6th in 300 hurdles (42.23)
Gilbert Classical - Jon Madrigal 6th in triple jump (39-4 ¾)