After watching Sarah Fakler run for three seasons, it's become a foregone conclusion that if she's racing Arizona runners, she's going to win.
Her victories are almost taken for granted by others, but that doesn't mean the Xavier junior takes winning for grated.
"Sometimes the pressure is a little tough, but I still haven't gotten used to winning," Fakler said. "It's still fun."
Only one Arizona runner beat Fakler in the past two seasons, Chinle senior Rolando Jumbo, but Fakler has the overall edge over Jumbo during that time. This season, Fakler won her second straight state championship, finished second at the prestigious Mt. SAC Invitational. She wrapped up her year with a 48th-place finish at the Nike Cross Country Nationals (beating Jumbo in the process) and is the 2011 Tribune Girls Cross Country runner of the year.
"I feel like the last three years have been learning experiences," Fakler said. "I'm looking forward to, in the future, just going out there and not having a learning experience, but just going out there and enjoying it."
Fakler won her first state title a year ago, running away from the field for a 37-second victory. With no obvious challenger to her in Division I this year, Fakler's focus was on meeting the race goals that her and her Xavier coaches put together.
"It was a lot different getting motivated this year," said Fakler, who won the state meet in 17 minutes, 48.19 seconds, 26 seconds faster than her winning time in 2010 (18:26). "I was focusing on split times, so there were a lot more disappointments because it's harder to go out there and hit those split times."
Fakler credits her improvement this year to her team, which was the best in school history. The Gators won their fifth straight state title with a team score of 22, the lowest score for a large school (5A or Division I) champion in state history and the sixth-lowest winning score in state meet history.
"Having such a good team helped me this year," Fakler said. "I can always count on the girls."
No where was that team depth more beneficial to Fakler than at the Nike Southwest Regional meet. Late in the race and running near the front, Fakler collapsed, but managed to get up and finish ninth. Her stumble didn't cost her team a trip to the Nike Nationals because the rest of the squad ran well enough to place second.
"I had a fever, but I thought I could run through it," Fakler said. "I wish I could tell what happened, but I don't remember much.
"I love having such a good team because they are always there for me."
All-Tribune First Team
Name Yr. School Comment
Sarah Fakler Jr. Xavier Won state for second straight year, rose up national ranks
Diana Garcia Jr. Tempe Div. III runner up; won girls open race at Doug Conley
Tory Haberman Sr. Highland Strong, consistent runner all year; was 2nd in Div. I
Jenna Maack Jr. Desert Vista Came on strong throughout year; was 6th in Div. I
Laura Orlie Sr. Xavier Not on radar in 2010, grew into quite a talent, took 3rd in Div. I
Breanna Perrone Sr. Xavier Like Orlie, finished prep career with a bang and 4th in Div. I
Aliya Shirif Sr. Desert Ridge Pleasant surprise was 5th in Div. I
Runner of the Year: Sarah Fakler, Xavier
Coach(es) of the year: Dave Van Sickle and Jeff Messer, Xavier: The Gators' co-head coaches had a wealth of talent at their disposal and didn't mess it up. In fact, all of the Gators who ran varsity races this year had significant improvements and their talented newcomers like Jessica Molloy and Lauren Kinzle didn't suffer any burnout, but instead got better and better as the year progressed.
All-Tribune Second Team
Name Yr. School Comment
Billie Dytrt Jr. Mountain View 3rd at Sole Sports, 5th at Conley and 13th in Div. I
Lauren Kinzle Fr. Xavier Earned spot in Gators' top seven, was 7th in Div. I
Mikaela Martin So. Horizon Honors Div. IV runner-up grew into state title threat by years' end
Samantha Mattice So. Xavier Another Gator that didn't crack lineup last year, but was 9th in Div. I
Kristy Rush Jr. Highland Steady growth this season; was 11th in Div. I
Leticia Shaban Sr. Tempe Made formidable duo with Garcia; placed 3rd in Div. III
Brittany Tretbar Jr. Desert Vista Took on more leadership and had solid year; 10th in Div. I
Apache Junction: Caitlin Kessler, Sr.
Arcadia: Sofia DeWulf, So.
Basha: Courtney Goodrich, So.
Cactus Shadows: Terri Baker, Jr.
Chaparral: Reagan Babione; Ali Kallner
Corona del Sol: Hallie Swenson, Jr.
Desert Mountain: Conley Marquez, Fr.
Desert Vista: Dani Jones, Fr.; Natalie Krafft, Jr.
Highland: Imani Heath, Sr.
Mesquite: Alice Jensen, Fr.; Victoria Gallegos, So.
Mountain Pointe: Cera Hassinan, Jr.
Mountain View: Erica Adams, Jr.; Hannah Nichols, Jr.
Pinnacle: Sydney Mierau, Jr.
Red Mountain: Taryn Estavillo, Fr.
Saguaro: Jelani Huma, Fr.; Megan Boyd, So.; Nicole Jakubczyk, Sr.; Molly Kinghorn, Fr.
Scottsdale Prep: Madison Babione, So.
Tempe Prep: Emily Hedberg, Sr.; Lindsey Macias, Jr.
Xavier: Jessica Molloy, Fr.; Shelby Brown, So.; McKenna Gaffney, Jr.