Originally Published: September 8, 2018 9:58 p.m.
Makenna Bray places 3rd for girls, Alec Almendarez 2nd for boys
PRESCOTT — Suffering through a rash of illnesses to open the first two weeks of the 2018 season, only now is the Prescott cross-country team beginning to realize its true potential.
That potential was on display at the annual Ray Wherley Invitational on a hot, sunny Saturday, Sept. 8, at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s 3.1-mile (5K) course, as the Badgers girls’ team placed third out of eight squads and the boys’ team took fifth out of 13 clubs.
“The girls could do some damage this year,” Prescott coach Cylinda Bray said. “They enjoy being around each other. I have a lot to choose from. The girls are pretty steady.”
Mountain Ridge’s girls won the team championship, followed by Boulder Creek in second. Brophy College Prep’s boys dominated en route to capturing the team title and was followed by Hopi, Boulder Creek and Carl Hayden in second through fourth places, respectively.
Prescott girls’ No. 1 runner Makenna Bray, a junior, placed third out of 69 runners in 22 minutes and 13.16 seconds. She finished behind winner Jaeda Honani of Hopi (21:33.96) and runner-up Emily Simon of Mountain Ridge (21:43.93) on the hilly, sandy and rocky course at mile-high altitude.
Makenna said she’s overcoming a sinus infection, which has sapped her energy of late. She has been on antibiotics for the past five days, and it will likely take her at least another week or two to regain her form.
Despite training the entire preseason, Makenna hadn’t run this season until she completed a training run on Sept. 5. About a week before the season-opening Peaks Invitational meet in Flagstaff Sept. 1, a number of Prescott runners had contracted either the flu, strep throat, a cold or a sinus infection.
“It was pretty hot and dry [Saturday] and the course was slower than last year — it was really sandy,” Makenna said. “It was a little rough, but it was better than I expected.”
Junior Emily McMahon, Prescott’s No. 2 runner, followed Makenna for the Badgers, finishing seventh in 23:06.77.
“We’re building back in,” Makenna added about the Badgers’ girls’ team, “and prepping for the next race.”
On the boys’ side for Prescott, team No. 1 runner Alec Almendarez, a junior, came from behind to finish second out of 108 runners in 17:58.48. Mountain Ridge’s Hunter Krasa won the race in 17:45.44.
“We went out pretty fast, and I was in the middle of the pack — and I was thinking, ‘Oh, no. I’m getting a little anxious,’” Almendarez said. “We went up the first hill, and I was still in the same spot. And we came around to the second hill, and I was still in the same spot.
“And then after the first lap, I started to see the Brophy guys go away, and I had to catch up to them. So, I kicked hard and I caught up to them eventually, and we went up the hills and I caught the fourth guy. And then the second hill, I caught the third guy. And then the last downhill, I caught the second guy — and I stayed in that spot until the end.”
Almendarez, one of the fortunate few on Prescott’s team who hasn’t been sick, had placed ninth overall in the Peaks’ Summit Race. He’s on a roll.
“He’s put in a lot of training, and he’s on fire this year,” coach Bray said. “He will do really well.”
Coach Bray said she intends to field a full team, once everyone’s healthy, by Sept. 28. That’s when the Badgers run at the Desert Twilight Invitational, an annual evening race in Queen Creek.
“We’ll get stronger,” she added. “This week was better than the last. We’ll get it together in the next few weeks.”
Prescott will compete at the 46th annual Doug Conley Invitational at 8 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 22, the first day of fall, at Shalimar Country Club, 2032 E. Golf Ave., in Tempe.