The Xavier cross-country team finally made its 2014 debut on Saturday (Sept. 6) and it was worth the wait.
The Gators had four finishers in the top 10 and went on to capture the team title in the Peaks Invitational at Buffalo Park in Flagstaff.
Junior Jane Miller led the way for the Gators, covering the 5K distance in 20:33.1, good for a third-place finish behind winner Megan Reniewicki of Phoenix Arcadia and Jesselyn Bries of Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor.
Xavier junior Tessa Weiss finished fifth at 20:37.8, senior Shannon Molvin finished sixth at 20:46.4, sophomore Sarah Carter finished seventh at 21:11.0, senior Lauren Kinzle finished No. 14 at 21:33.1, and freshman Caroline McClelland finished 15th at 21:34.3.
Xavier scored 35 points, while Page was second with 119 and Ganado third with 138.
The Gators were successful despite an injury to one key runner and illness for another.
According to long-time coach Dave Van Sickle, the Gators are capable of having just about anyone step up and have a good day. On Saturday, it was Miller.
“Our objective was to run as a pack, stay together for the first 4K. Then, in the last 1K, let’s go for it,’’ Van Sickle said.
The Gators’ goal, Van Sickle said, between now and the Division I state meet, is for all the girls to shave 15-20 seconds off their current times.
“We’re getting more and more fit every week,’’ he said. “If our top five or six girls get faster together, we feel we can be dangerous.’’
The Gators’ performance in this meet against some quality competition from Native American communities in northern Arizona was a good sign, Van Sickle said.
The runners will have nearly two weeks to knock off a few seconds before their next competition, the Woodbridge Classic in Irvine, Calif., on Sept. 20.