The boys fifth- and sixth-grade cross country team from St. Vincent de Paul School placed first in the Catholic Youth Athletic Association’s annual meet. It was the team’s first time in the race. (Ambria Hammel/THE CATHOLIC SUN)

If there were a “rookie of the year” title for cross-country meets, the “Tigers” would likely capture it.

The fifth- and sixth-grade boys team at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic School finished first in a 1.86-mile run against seven other schools. St. Vincent de Paul was one of five new schools that competed in the eighth annual Catholic Youth Athletic Association’s cross country meet Nov. 16 at Granada Park in Phoenix.

The number of runners nearly doubled from last year. The meet drew 186 fifth- through eighth-graders from 13 schools with the older students running a bit farther — 2.24 miles. Officials said that interest in the meet grows each year. Some suspect that the new cross-country website also padded participation.

“I was amazed that as hot as this fall was, that they continued to run… not understanding what the competition was like or what it was going to get them,” Mike Evans, coach, told The Catholic Sun after the meet.

His 28-member team ran the perimeter of the school property four times a week since September for training. That netted the equivalent of 3k or 4k runs for the third- through eighth-graders, although Evans said a number of them had previous experience running a 5k with their families.

He thought the school team would compete well, but didn’t know how well until the awards ceremony. The places for the top 5 runners per school netted a team score.

Fifth-grader Uriel Arreola led the Tigers with a fifth place finish. His teammates didn’t make the top 10 but St. Vincent de Paul still managed to sprint to a 15-point lead over the second place Falcons from Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Tempe — also a rookie running team.

Evans said forming a cross country team was a natural next step for Sr. Julie Kubasak, D.C., principal, who is committed to every St. Vincent de Paul student’s total well-being. It’s also an extension of the school’s continued commitment to the diocesan Wellness Policy.

Other rookie teams included the Spartans at St. Gregory and Trinity Lutheran — it’s one of five non-Catholic private schools in the league, three of which run cross country — plus one runner from St. John Vianney in Goodyear. Schools need five runners to qualify for a team title.

After some runners finished, they returned to the course to better pace and motivate other teammates entering the final stretch. The cross country meet featured 62 boys and 62 girls in the elementary division with 39 boys and 23 girls in the middle school division.

St. Thomas Aquinas

The Tigers from All Saints Episcopal Day School in Phoenix and the Wildcats from St. Thomas Aquinas in Avondale took home four medals each, three of them in the team competition. The Wildcats earned first in the elementary girls division and the boys took third. The middle school boys took home second place, thanks in part to seventh-grader Kyle Tessmer’s second place individual finish.

St. Francis Xavier and San Francisco de Asís runners

St. Francis Xavier athletes took home three individual titles. Sixth-grader Ava Rawson finished first in the elementary division. Eighth-grader Kaitlin McCoy finished behind San Francisco de Asís’s Lauren Hazel for second place in the middle school girls race. St. Francis seventh-grader Jake Longini took third in the middle school boys race.


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