GSN Staff Report

Highland High’s cross country teams were expected to come away from the Division I state championships with at least both individual champions and perhaps even a team title or two.

But in the boys race, Desert Vista’s Sammy Van Alstine, who prefers the shorter 800 meters and 1,500/mile in track where he can use his speed, found that extra gear helpful. Running step-for-step over the 5,000-meter course with Highland’s nationally ranked Leo Daschbach, Van Alstine pulled away in the closing 800 meters for an upset victory at Cave Creek Golf Course in Phoenix

Van Alstine clocked 16 minutes, 3.08 seconds, three seconds ahead of Daschbach, who is ranked sixth in the U.S. with a best of 14 minutes, 52 seconds for 5,000 meters. Daschbach was ailing and taking antibiotics during the week.

Van Alstine lifted the Thunder to their fifth consecutive Division I state team title and their 10th overall despite losing seven seniors from last season’s championship team. Highland took second, 10 points behind.

In the girls race, favored Caroline McLeskey of Highland could not keep pace with Abi Archer of Chaparral, who won in 17:56.22, eight seconds ahead of runner up Morgan Foster of Chandler and 27 ahead of McLeskey, who slipped to third place.

Xavier won the girls title, 12 points ahead of runner up Chandler and 34 ahead of third-place Highland.