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Cibola Cross Country team on the right track
Returning a majority of last year's runners and bringing in fresh legs, the Cibola Raiders expect to compete for the state title once again. But this season, they'll being doing it at the highest level.
Cibola's cross country team, which placed second during the 2009 Boys 5A-II State Cross Country Meet, will move up to the 5A-I classification for this season. It'll be a challenge for the team, but one that coach Kris Norton said his squad is prepared for.
“Getting bumped into 5A-I meant we were going to be running against tougher teams,” he said. “But it was going to be tough, no matter who the competition was.”
On the boys side, the Raiders return a majority of last year's top talent including Ryan Norton, who placed seventh in last year's state meet, and Richard Clayton who finished eighth.
Despite the returners, it'll be a new face who will set the pace for Cibola. Bernie Montoya, who was a key member of the Raiders 3,200-meter relay team in track, made the transition over to cross country this year with exceptional results. During the Padre Invitational in Tempe, the Cibola sophomore finished first with a time of 16 minutes, 20 seconds. His teammate, Norton, was nine seconds behind him.
“I pace myself against (Norton).” said Montoya, regarding his approach to running. “Then, during the last mile, or 800 meters, it's the final kick for me and I'll just see what I can do.”
It's paid off remarkably. The team has already posted a pair of perfect scores in the early going and looks to build momentum going into Saturday's Cibola Invitational at the Cocopah Golf Resort. Montoya said that he expects the invite to provide some momentum for the team as it enters its region schedule.
“We want to go into (the state meet) with a lot of confidence,” he said. “I just think that we have high expectations.”
The girls team expects to grow in competitiveness as it gains experience. Last year, the team relied on freshman Monica Huston during the final parts of the season. Now a sophomore, Huston said she hopes to meet those expectations by setting her bar for achievement higher.
So far, it's been successful. During the Padre Invite, Huston finished second behind a runner who was in her senior season.
“The upper (junior varsity) guys have helped me out a lot,” she said. “The times that they're getting, I want to be near them. If I can get there in practice I want to be there in the race.”
The competition among teammates, will be essential for the Raiders if they expect to compete for a title. Coach Norton acknowledged that, though each school has talented runners, Cibola's depth usually leads to lopsided scores against its region competition.
“Depthwise, each school isn't there for a challenge,” Norton said. “But each school does seem to put up a couple good runners and that makes for a good challenge.”
Despite the matchups, restructuring and the limited funds for travel, Norton said his expectations are the same.
For a second-straight year, he wants his team to bring home hardware.
“We're not really going to change our expectations,” he said. “We know we have a chance of winning it.”