There's something rather unusual heading into the Arizona Interscholastic Association Division I Track and Field State Championship today at Mesa Community College.
Cibola senior star Bernie Montoya, who has dominated long-distance running in the state, isn't going into the 1,600-meter race with the top-seeded time.
That distinction goes to Corona del Sol junior Nate Rodriguez, whose seed time of 4 minutes, 15.30 seconds is slightly better than Montoya and Desert Mountain senior Matti Groll's 4:15.71.
But don't call Montoya an underdog — especially since he is the two-time 1,600 state champion.
“The races he's run really fast have been the mile so it's a little longer and doesn't count,” Cibola distance coach Kris Norton said. “Everybody knows what he can do and knows he's the favorite.”
The admission for both the Division I and Division II meets will be $10 for adults and $6 for students with a school ID. The meets are split up with preliminaries and some final events on Wednesday and the rest of the finals on Saturday.
Montoya, who is also the defending state champion in the 800 and 3,200, is just one of several local athletes participating in the state meet.
Cibola brings six individual boys and the 3,200 meter relay team and two individual girls and the 3,200 relay team. Cibola coach Brett Pavey said that with the combination of the boys scores, the Raiders could potentially finish in the top five at Division I for the third straight year.
While boys dominate the Raiders' participants, Gila Ridge is mostly girls at the Division II state meet. There are three Hawk girls with two relay teams, and Alec Wilson (high jump) and Kainoa Renaud (shot put) are going for the boys.
Wilson is ranked No. 6 with a high jump of 6-3. Gila Ridge coach Lucas Wolthuis is confident he could possibly clear 6-4.
For Kofa, Allen Alonso is participating in triple jump, where he's the No. 12 seed at Division I.
Yuma High's David Stiles is doing the 110 hurdles, triple jump and long jump at Division II, Arturo Vargas will run the 400, Kody Jose is No. 8 in discus, and Chance Hamilton qualified for shot put on the boys side and Michelle Watson for the girls triple jump.
For the local relay teams, Pavey said he thinks the Cibola boys 3,200 team of Keanu Nakasawa, Christian Alva, Montoya and Jose Garcia has a strong chance of scoring some points. The Raiders are tied for ninth for seed time and eight teams score points with the top four medaling.
The Hawks expect big things out of the girls 3,200 relay team of Natalie Lopez, Madison Haynes, Malibu Walter and Haylee Dahl, which comes into the Division II meet with the No. 9 seeded time of 10:08.21.
“I think our four by eight has a chance to win state, flat out,” Wolthuis said.
Wolthuis said that group hasn't had a lot of time together because Dahl and Haynes were working at getting individual spots at the meet. Dahl is competing in the 400 and 800, and Haynes is doing the 1,600 and 3,200. Haynes comes into state with the sixth best time in the 1,600 (5:17.97) and fourth best in the 3,200 (11:28.37).
Gila Ridge junior Paeden Jackson will be doing the 200, 400, long jump and is a member of the Hawks' 1,600 relay team — along with Haynes, Dahl and Camille Ochoa. Last year, Jackson took third in the 400 and the 1,600 relay team also finished third.
“She could be really exciting out of the 400,” Wolthuis said.
Cibola senior Monica Huston hopes to get her first state title in the Division I meet in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200. While the 3,200 may be difficult — she has the third best time but is still nearly 20 seconds behind Xavier Prep's Sarah Fakler — she is also third in the 800 with a time of 2:13.29. However, in order to get it, she'll have to beat out Desert Vista's Danielle Jones, who has a season-best of 2:10.33.
“It's going to take a 2:10 to win it,” Norton said.
Jesse Severson can be reached at email@example.com or at 539-6881.