Gibbs, Stutesman have bittersweet final state meet

Deer Valley senior Emily Stutesman crosses the finish line in third place in the Division II state cross country championships Nov. 10 at Cave Creek Golf Course in Phoenix. [Richard Smith/West Valley Preps]

Richard Smith
West Valley Preps

The fairy tale final meet failed to materialize for Emily Stutesman.

However — considering two years ago at this time she was in the midst of treatment for a life-threatening battle with anorexia after her weight dropped below 80 pounds — finishing third in the Nov. 10 Division II cross country state meet as a senior is approached from a different perspective.

“It’s been a long journey. It’s been full of ups and downs. If you had asked me in my freshman year I never would have though this had happened. I was just a little freshman running around in circles — OK I’ll run 10 miles, it’s good,” Stutesman said. “I think the biggest thing I look forward to is seeing the team improve. It’s been kind of a bumpy year for us with lots of injuries. Getting 13th as a team and knowing the girls are going to do so amazing in the next couple years, getting to be their leader was great.”

It was the top finish of her cross country career, after placing sixth as a freshman and fourth as a junior.

Flagstaff junior Hana Hall, who moved back to Arizona this summer, won in a time of 18:07.48 while Phoenix North Canyon senior Stefana Purkovic just edged Stutesman — 18:37.65 to 18:42.67.

“I really liked the competition. All of us were pushing each other. It was nice to be back at state, I like the course. It’s really cool to see how every year there’s new kids and there’s freshmen that come up,” Stutesman said. “I wish my finish would have gone a bit differently, probably the last mile. It wasn’t the best race, but you’ve got to pick yourself up and move on.”

The other elite distance runner from northern Glendale, Cactus senior Maggie Gibbs, ran a few hours later on Nov. 10 and finished her career with a similar race synopsis and sentiments.

Like Stutesman, Gibbs left a more hilly layout of the course at Cave Creek Golf Course in Phoenix believing she did not have her best race. Gibbs entered the state meet with the second-best time is Division III behind only massive favorite Samatha Schadler of Rio Rico.

Gibbs finished sixth in Division III, in a time of 19:47.1.

“I got out exactly how I wanted and my first mile felt good. Toward the middle after the big hill, I started getting in my head I guess. The second mile I saw my time and I felt ok with it. But then all the other hills at the end kept coming. It didn’t go as I wanted to, but it’s all right,” Gibbs said.

It has been a breakthrough season for Gibbs, who sliced nearly 40 seconds off her personal best time.

“I’m going to use this as motivation for the next races,” Gibbs said.

Cactus coach Rich Levan said he had heard organizers went out of their way to find the hilliest spots on the golf course when setting up list year’s layout.

“Maggie ran a good race, though not what she wanted. She’s made so many gains this year that she came into state with a big spotlight on her. She’ll get more experience at being in the spotlight,” Levan said.

Deer Valley cross country coach Chris Zent said he’s happy this is not the end, as Stutesman will compete in the distance races for the track team this spring.

“I’ve been fortunate to coach Emily these four years, and I know the outcome wasn’t what we were hoping for and envisioning. But she had some great competitors in front of her and they ran really hard. For everything she’s been through and the work she puts in, I would have loved to seen a different outcome. But I think she handles it better than I do as a coach. It’s a testament to her,” Zent said. “It’s bittersweet but she’s accomplished so much as a runner and as a person. That’s the great part. I get to coach amazing girls and they have great character.”

Cactus senior Maggie Gibbs crosses the finish line in sixth place in the Division III state cross country championships Nov. 10 at Cave Creek Golf Course in Phoenix. [Richard Smith/West Valley Preps]

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