When senior Matthew Bradley crossed the finish line at the Division III State Cross-Country Championships in Phoenix on Saturday morning, a feeling of disbelief quickly spread throughout his mind.
“Am I dreaming?,” Bradley asked the first race official to grab him after finishing No. 1 overall and winning the individual state championship with a 16:04 time.
“Did I just win?,” he asked again.
The race official smiled and proudly informed the Prescott runner he was a state champion.
“I guess I wanted to make sure … It took a second to settle in, I was a little in shock,” Bradley said.
It is the first state championship in Bradley’s illustrious career, beating out heavily favored Josiah Tsosie by 3 seconds as the senior from Chinle finished second with a 16:07 time.
Martin Bowen, who was also in contention for an individual state title this fall, took third for Page with a 16:14 time.
Bradley said his plan heading into Saturday’s state race was to keep pace with the top four or five runners, then catch up with them in the second half.
“I was with the top guys the whole time,” Bradley said, adding he was surprised he took the lead as early as he did.
“I thought it was going to come down to the last 400 meters. It played out differently than I expected,” Bradley said.
Cylinda Bray, head coach of the Badgers cross-country team, said she wasn’t surprised Bradley was able to win a state title, because the senior beat Bowen earlier this season at the Peaks Invitational in Flagstaff.
“We knew head-to-head Matt could out-kick Bowen from Page. We knew what we were against,” Bray said.
According to Prescott athletic director Missy Townsend, Bradley is likely the fourth individual state cross-country champion in school history. Kirk Bronander, Destin Bonham and Lisa Hill all won individual titles in the 1990s.
Although there may be more individual champions from Prescott, records of those names were unavailable at press time.
Prescott took fourth overall in Saturday’s state championship meet at the Cave Creek Golf Course in Phoenix, finishing with 153 total points.
Page won the overall state title with 45 points, while Tuba City took second with 100 points. Chinle was third with 140, while Salpointe Catholic wrapped up the Top 5 with 176 points.
Garrett Ward took 19th overall with a 17:04 time, while Alec Almendarez, a sophomore, was 29th overall with a 17:28 time.
Bray said the boys team seemed to progress quickly throughout the season.
“Our guys kept getting stronger and stronger. They wanted to go after it and see what happened. Our guys were excited,” Bray said.
Matthew Fredericks finished a tick behind Almendarez, taking 30th overall with a 17:28 time and Zackary Zertuche was 74th with a 18:18.
GIRLS FINISH TOP 10
The Prescott girls’ cross-country team finished ninth overall Saturday with 204 total points. Ganado won the team state title with 101 points, while Coconino was second with 108 points.
Makenna Bray paced the Badgers with an 11th overall finish and 20:10 time, while Emily McMahon finished 25th overall with a 20:55 time. Freshman Tea Castro was 29th overall with a 21:03 time.
Brian M. Bergner Jr. is sports editor for The Daily Courier, the Prescott Valley Tribune and the Chino Valley Review. Follow him on Twitter at @SportsWriter52 or on Facebook at @SportsAboveTheFold. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (928) 445-3333, ext. 1106.