Hunter Krasa finished third in his final Division I state cross country meet — and the Mountain Ridge senior has no complaints.
Krasa finished eighth last year after running out of gas late. This time, in the first race Nov. 16 at Cave Creek Golf Course in Phoenix, he stayed with the pack and placed a strong time of 15:40.
"The last couple of years at state I definitely feel like I've underperformed compared to what I had been doing during the season, either by going out too fast and blowing up or not doing everything right going into the meet," Krasa said. "Today with good weather and lots of previous mistakes to go off of, all of that helped a lot."
Krasa said he was part of a solid lead pack until about two miles were left. Six runners broke away and stayed together until another mile had passed. Fellow senior and heavy favorite Leo Dasbach of Gilbert Highland started to pull away and won in 15.27.
Krasa and Phoenix Brophy Prep junior Xander Black battled for second with B lack just claiming in in 15.37.
"There was probably a solid six of us in a pack until right after mile two, when Leo took off and I took off after him. Then Xander and I got into a little bit of a catfight until the end," Krasa said.
Pleased with the race he ran and his time, Krasa hopes to carry the momentum into the Foot Locker West Regional race Dec. 7 at at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, Calif.
He will try to qualify for nationals.
"This year I definitely felt like I was in control of the race. My time was a solid fifty seconds faster than last year, which is a huge, huge jump," Krasa said. "It wasn't like this was a slow race. Getting third and a 15:40, it was exciting to leave with that kind of a mark."
Glendale Prep senior Ani Durrell followed with her own third place finish in the next race — Division IV girls.
Durrell finished in 19:57, spearheading the Griffins' team to a second-place overall finish.
"I knew I was going to have two or three girls right behind me and I wanted to close the gap between me and the second-place runner, Grace Tipton, as much as I could," Durrell said. "I really wanted to help my team secure that second-place title. It means everything to watch my sisters push. I love them all like family."
Durrell and Glendale Prep knew individual and team glory were unrealistic. St. Michael's Indian School in the Navajo Nation and its senior, Ali Upshaw, showed why repeat titles were expected.
"I felt like second is where we we are slotted to finish. I'm so pleased with how we did," Glendale Prep cross country coach Eric Webdale said. "Everybody ran what they're supposed to run. We had a strategy and seemed to pull it off."
Durrell said the presence of Upshaw — who won in a blazing 17:49 — added a mental game for that first half of the race, raising the importance of not getting too out too fast.
Last year, injuries kept her out of state. Now she had saved up for the end, and used a finishing kick to pull away from two runners.
"It meant a lot to me. I haven't had my kick in a while coming back from two stress fractures in the last year. It was really exhilirating and everything I could want in a race," Durrell said.
Griffins reshman Madeline McBee fininshed 16th, 12th among runners on teams eligible for the team title
Webdale said he was pleased at how McBee did. And Glendale Prep's third, fourth and fifth just worked with each other and pushed each other.
Most of all he credited Durrell's presence and leadership for bumping this team from fifth in 2018 to second this year.
"We say the heart of our team starts with an A and ends with an I. Her family nature, taking the younger ones in and making them part of the team, that's way more important than whatever she's done on the course."
Krasa had a similar galvanizing effect on the Mountain Ridge boys, which moved up to fifth in Division I.
Junior Austion Clayton aided the Mountain Lions with a 10th-place run.
"That's where I wanted to finish — in the top five," said first-year Mountain Midge coach Mitchell Moses. "The boys ran a really good, tough race. I'm really proud of how they finished."