Originally Published: September 14, 2008 12:04 a.m.
Saturday was a day for distance runners far and wide.
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University played host to the 37th annual Ray Wherley Invitational, the annual early fall showcase for some of Arizona's top high school cross country programs, including Prescott and Bradshaw Mountain. Chino Valley, meanwhile, raced in the high heat of the Las Vegas Invitational, where Larry Hermance took top honors in the small-school boys division.
Named for the former PHS cross country coach and event founder, the Ray Wherley Invite is a staple on the fall running scene. Twenty teams packed the 3.1-mile course and main field at ERAU.
The event features a unique format unlike any other high school meet. Wherley pits each team's individually-seeded runners into separate, respective races, testing all 7-seeded runners against each other, all 6-seeded runners against each other, all 5's and so on through each program's No. 1 runners. Each of the seven heats featured 20 runners.
Team-wise, the Prescott High School girls ran a stellar third place out of 20, placing five runners among the top five in their respective heats. The Bradshaw Mountain girls captured seventh place overall.
Bryn Merrill of Prescott had a time of 18:05 for sixth fastest in the 1-seed race. Emily Dunbar clocked in at 18:36 to place fourth among all 2-seeds. Other top finishers for the Lady Badgers included Alison Fraher (3-seed, seventh, 19:27), Morgan Slade (4-seed, fourth, 19:37), Erin Miller (5-seed, third, 19:14), Maili Huck (6-seed, fifth, 19:59) and Nina Lee (7-seed, fifth, 20:08).
Bradshaw Mountain's Shelby Meinhardt took seventh place in the race grouping all 1-seeds together with a time of 18:34. Sarah Ashburn ran eighth among 2-seeds (20:02). Other top finishers for the Lady Bears included Cierra Winters (3-seed, ninth, 19:57), Courtney Roybal (6-seed, third, 19:09) and Lacey Grovenstein (7-seed, sixth, 21:04).
On the boys' side, Prescott ran ninth as a team. The Bradshaw boys placed 11th.
Freshman Ryan Madler boasted a big day for the Bears. Madler, a 3-seed, ran eighth best with a time of 17:59. Also for Bradshaw, Jesus Escalera ran second (4-seed, 17:25) and Tyler Roach, another freshman, placed ninth (5-seed, 19:16).
"Some excellent performances for some of the younger athletes considering it was their first time on that challenging course," said BMHS head coach Mike Simon.
The Badger boys, too, are fielding a young team this year, with five of their top seven runners competing in their first varsity season. The team's No. 1 runner, Kolby Chien, placed 15th among the 1-seeds with a time of 18:30. Other finishers for Prescott included Hayden Palmer (2-seed, ninth, 17:54), Nate Hald (3-seed, 12th, 19:11), Josh Sharp (4-seed, 10th, 19:17), Adam Schurr (5-seed, 10th, 19:18), Stephen Kozak (6-seed, 10th, 19:08) and Lucas Chien (7-seed, fifth, 18:58).
All runners placing in the top 10 received medals at the invite.
Prescott hosts its final home meet of the season this Wednesday against visiting Sunnyslope and Kellis. Bradshaw Mountain heads north to test the Four Corners Invitational in Flagstaff on Saturday.
The Chino Valley Cougars traveled to Boulder City, Nev., for their third meet of the season.
Hermance, the defending 3200 3A state champion from track and field season, ran a time of 17:08 to outpace the small-school division near Vegas. His time would have qualified for second fastest in the large-school division at the meet that featured teams from Nevada, Arizona, California and Utah.
His teammate, Juan Martinez, was on his heels. Martinez ran second to Hermance with a time of 17:35.
Other finishers for the Cougars included Davenn Mannix (27th place, 21:28) and Matt Warren (31st place, 22:01).
Kaycee Corbell led the Lady Cougars' effort in the girls' heat, capturing third place overall with a time of 22:49. Dylanna Franz (17th, 27:54) and Hannah Swope (23rd, 28:15) rounded out the Chino qualifiers.
The Cougars will get some cooler weather this Saturday at the Four Corners Invitational in Flagstaff.