Cross country Wildcats expected to be at full strength
By Raymundo Frasquillo

Morenci did not finish first last season. Onlookers couldn’t figure out why the cross country Wildcats celebrated as if they had won the state meet. The Kenneth Lester-coached boys improved from 20th of 27 teams in 2016 to sixth in 2017, and they felt the 14-place jump was reason to celebrate.
Several of the returnees continued to train in the off-season, and it paid dividends in the initial meet attended in Payson Aug. 29. The Wildcats posted improved times, some two minutes quicker than in the previous season.
However, Morenci has not been at full strength with all returnees available for its ninth season. A smile has returned to Lester’s face as junior Cameron Bailey-Garcia and senior Matthew Silvester were cleared to return.
The Wildcats are at Willcox Wednesday, Sept. 26 and at Casa Grande Friday, Sept. 28 before hosting the Copper Hills Invitational Oct. 3.

Cobre Invitational
Morenci returned from the Land of Enchantment with a second place finish of five teams running in Bataan Park at Fort Bayard Sept. 15. Silver High totaled 30 points, Morenci 44, Las Cruces 50, and Bayard Cobre 95. Deming had one participant.
Individually, junior Jordan Mares clocked in with 19:21.00 for 3rd of 29 finishers; senior Shawn Kartchner with 19:22.00 for 4th; junior Dante DeAnda clocked in at 20:37.00 for 9th; junior Cameron Bailey-Garcia with 24:00.00 for 26th during his initial meet this season; and freshman Marcus Grijalva with 25:02.00 for 27th.
Silver freshman Matthew Holguin finished first in 19:08.00, followed by senior Oscar Lopez in 19:17.00.

Thatcher Invitational
Mares achieved his personal goal of a top 10 finish with a running of 19:34.07 for fifth place, but the Wildcats came in below expectations at third with 93 points.
Silvester would have finished in the top 10 but collapsed within sight of the finish line, requiring medical attention, and was disqualified after collapsing at the finish line.
Senior Gabriel Baca would also have been in the top 10, but stopped to aid Sylvester and finished with 21:10.06 for 13th, Kartchner was 18th (21:59.07), senior Anthony Chanez 28th (24:01.02), and Grijalva 34th (26:27.04).
Host Thatcher took the meet with 34 points, followed by Safford (47), Morenci, San Carlos (94), Tombstone (103), and Benson (141). Willcox had four entrants and Fort Thomas one.
Thatcher senior Hunter Stailey clocked in at 18:27.03 for first, Safford junior Jacob Urrea second in 18:51.02, Safford senior Dominic Gutierrez third (19:23.06), junior Wesley Pena was fourth (19:31.05),

Desert Solstice Invitational
Morenci was one of 67 schools and 297 runners, 163 in the Black and 134 in Silver, represented in Marana Mountain View’s Desert Solstice Invitational at Crooked Tree Golf Course Sept. 8.
Individually, Black runner Mares came in at 18:21.68 for 88th of 163 finishers, surpassing his 19.33.73 of 2017; Kartchner clocked in at 18:31.23 for 93rd, did not participate last season; DeAnda at 18:49.68 for 111th, quicker than 19:49.58 in 2017; and Silvester had 18:54.33 for 114th, bettering his 19:24.30 in 2017.
Silver entrants Baca ran 19:56.46 for 78th, ending sooner than 20.05.20 in 2017; Chanez finished 87th (20:19.89), Grijalva 112th (21:39.38), and senior Ryan Williams 121st (22:13.47).

Payson Invitational
Individually, Mares turned in a personal best 18:00.80 for 15th of 169 finishers, surpassing his 22.01.70 for 84th in 2017; Silvester had a personal best 18:29.40 for 23rd, bettering his 20:03.80 for 42nd; Kartchner also had a personal best with 18:30.00 for 24th, did not participate last season; DeAnda clocked in at 18:40.00 for 28th, quicker than 21:16.60 for 70th; and Baca ran 19:37.30 for 50th, ending sooner than 22.00.40 for 83rd.
Previous bests were 18:02.41 in 2017 for Mares, 18:41.00 in 2016 for Silvester, 19:06.00 in 2016 for Kartchner, 18:22.19 in 2017 for DeAnda, and 18:54.00 in 2017 for Baca.
Other Wildcats posting times were senior Anthony Chanez in 19:38.40 (51st), senior Ryan Williams in 22:00.20 (102nd), sophomore T.J. Lee in 24:11.70 (127th), freshman Chris Wile in 24:24.50 (131st), senior Mario Esquivel in 26:10.70 (147th), freshman Marcus Grijalva in 26:50.40 (150th), freshman Nico Patterson in 27:05.00 (151st), and senior Christian Jones in 42:35.70 (169th).
Division II Queen Creek Casteel won the meet with 30 points and its five entrants each finishing in the top ten. Senior Zach Gomez was the first finisher in 16:20.00