PHOENIX — Last year, Cibola’s Monica Huston ended up costing herself when she attempted to chase down Xavier’s Sarah Fakler.
A year later, Huston was a little wiser.
Instead of bolting out of the start, Huston held back and used a late surge to finish third in the Arizona Interscholastic Association Division I Cross Country State Meet on Saturday at Cave Creek Golf Course.
“I’m definitely much more pleased with my race this year and I think I ran a much smarter race for me, because last year I was in second place after half a mile, but then the third mile I just got passed by one girl after another,” said Huston, who was the only area runner to finish in the top 30 other than Cibola’s Bernie Montoya. “You don’t get anything after half a mile, it’s about the end.”
A year after running out of gas late dropped her to eighth place, the senior finished with a time of 18 minutes, 57 seconds.
Halfway through the race on Saturday, Huston was in a pack far behind Fakler, who eventually went on to win with a time of 18:02 — her third straight state championship. But when Cibola coach Kris Norton saw Huston in that pack instead of darting ahead, he knew Huston was ready to push ahead on the second half.
“When she came over the crossover, it was beautiful,” he said. “I knew we were going to have a chance at runner-up.”
Even though Huston ran the first mile 10 seconds slower than planned, she pushed ahead to second place and battled Highland’s Kristi Rush the rest of the way.
“I just started picking it up and getting in front of girls. I saw I was in second and I saw Sarah was ahead of me, of course, I tried to maintain that pace and Kristi ran with me for a while and just started pulling away from me,” Huston said.
Rush, who finished 11th last year with a time of 19:06, ended up taking second place at 18:50.
“We have to give Kristi credit. Monica was trying to run her down, and we came up a little short for runner-up but it was a great race. I’m really proud of her,” Norton said.
Norton also said there is a strong possibility that Huston and Rush could end up being teammates next year at Brigham Young University.
Huston, who is training for the Nike Southwest race on Nov. 17, once again pushed herself up to second place and had thoughts of catching Fakler, but when Rush ended up catching up with her, the senior from Cibola’s mind switched to making second-place the goal.
“For a while, when I was in second and I saw Sarah I thought if she falters maybe I can get her,” Huston said. “But then Kristi came up and my mind went to Kristi.”
Jesse Severson can be reached at email@example.com or at 539-6881. Find him on Facebook at facebook.com/YSJesseSeverson.