(EDITOR'S NOTE: Because of the early Labor Day deadline, photos of the Hopi Invite will appear in the Sept. 14 edition of the Navajo Hopi Observer.)
POLACCA -- Page edged Ganado in the girls cross country race at the Hopi Invite. Hopi was a distant fifth, but Hopi High Coach Harvey Honyouti remains upbeat about this year.
Coach Honyouti said the Lady Bruins didn't have all their runners running this summer, and they're paying for it now. But, he believes Hopi High is off to a better start this year than last year.
"The kids have more discipline," he said.
Coach Honyouti credits the pending turn around on the help of assistant coaches Wendi Lewis and Kim Sekaquaptewa.
"They're stressing the need for all the runners to dedicate themselves to running and the team," he said.
Hopi High was also without all its runners as many did not have the necessary practices in that they need in order to compete.
"We're going to have more fun this season because the attitude is great. The runners are a lot more focused as a team," he said.
Coach Honyouti said he is not disappointed with the Lady Bruins' fifth place finish in the girls' opening race for the year.
"They ran the way I expected them to with the shape they're in and the social dances that have been going on," he said. "It's been crazy." Coach Honyouti said there is room for improvement as the Lady Bruins have only practiced long runs so far and need to focus on their speed work.
Coach Honyouti said the only "damper" on the meet was when runner Erika Namoki was taken to the hospital.
"I'm not sure what was wrong with her, but they said she's alright. Once I heard that everything was fine, I was happy," he said.
Coach Honyouti said he uses this meet to gauge the work that the team needs to do in order to compete with the best teams in conference.
"We need to pack in together and we didn't do that in the varsity race. Some who ran the junior varsity or open race can help us do that and I may move some of them up so we can be more competitive with our fifth through seventh runners," he said.
Coach Honyouti said he expects the Hopi High team to improve.
"I just wanted to get through the meet without any major injuries," he said. "Now, it's time to get serious."
Coach Honyouti said it's great that Chinle has joined the 3A North.
"It's great for the region because they have quality teams and quality coaches," he said. "Chinle joining the conference is great for the conference and great for the fans."
Coach Honyouti said everybody in the conference is tough this year as five of the top six teams in the race were from this conference.
"Greyhills and Tuba City are down, but they won't stay there," he said.
Coach Honyouti noted that the crowd was packed.
"The fans were great. There were more fans than anticipated. It was a quality meet. I want to thank everybody who pitched in because that's what it takes, and the fans enjoyed it."
Hopi High will host the regional conference this year.
The Page girls won the championship with 67 points and Ganado was six points back with 73.
Page's Katrina Lee was the individual champion of the girls race at the Hopi Invite.
The third through sixth spots went to teams from the 3A North. Chinle snagged third with 100, Winslow took fourth with 116, Hopi placed fifth with 120 and Window
Rock finished sixth with 137. The rest of the field finished like this: Alchesay, seventh, 142; Coconino, eighth, 210; Pinon, ninth, 239; Holbrook, tenth, 256; Tuba City, 11th, 259; Greyhills, 12th, 298; Many Farms, 13th, 312; and Red Mesa, 14th, 356.
Katrina Lee from Page won the race with Tiffany Sorrell from Window Rock grabbing second and Marilyn Curley from Ganado snagging third.
The top five runners of the Page championship team were Adrienne Madman, fourth; Roni Lane, 17th; Aimee Madman, 21st; and Shaina Begay, 24th. Janeen Yazzie from Winslow took fifth. Two runners from Coconino placed sixth and seventh. Erika Namoki from Hopi took eighth, Eva Stewart from Chinle placed ninth and Alandria Reid from Ganado took tenth.
The others finishing in the top 20 were Farrin Holden, Alchesay, 11th; Tierra Blacksheep, Ganado, 12th; Samantha Lucas, Hopi, 13th; Stephanie Johnson, Chinle, 14th; Rhea Cosay, Alchesay, 15th; Teri Tsosie, Ganado, 16th; Elisha Billie, Winslow, 18th; Deann Honanie, Hopi, 19th; and Danielle Begay, Window Rock, 20th.
Page also won the boys meet and had the individual champions.
Page's Donovan Tsinnijinnie won the boys race and Katrina Lee took home the trophy as the girls' top runner.
In the boys race, Page dominated by five runners finishing in the top ten as Page finished with 21 points. Chinle finished a distant second with 74 points and Hopi grabbed third with 115.
Tuba City High School took fourth with 122. The next four spots came from the 3A North: Ganado, fifth, 156; Winslow, sixth, 193; Window Rock, seventh, 211; and Monument Valley, eighth, 236.
The rest of the field showed Coconino, ninth, 259; Holbrook, tenth, 263; Many Farms, 11th, 285; Alchesay, 12th, 324; Red Mesa, 13th, 342; and Greyhills, 14th, 353.
The top five for Page were Tsinnijinnie, Nathan Lee, second; Antonie Smith, fourth; Levi Lomeland, fifth, and Tomai Bitsoi, ninth.
Weston Jones from Red Mesa grabbed third place. The others in the top ten were Julian Begay, Many Farms, sixth; Derrick Spencer, Window Rock, seventh; Matt Lamson, Hopi, eighth; and Romero Curley, Chinle, 10th.
Filling out the top 20 were Kyle Whitehair, Winslow, 11th; Rick Worker, Tuba City, 12th; Tyler Logg and Rodell Williams, both Chinle, 13th and 14th; John Bigwater, Ganado, 15th; Kevin Rivers and Vonn Secakuku, both Hopi High, 16th and 17th; Tyson Logg and Allison Decheeny, both Chinle, 18th and 19th; and Christopher Holve, Tuba City, 20th.
There were 96 runners in the boys race. Page Coach Dave Lomeland said it felt good to win, but this group of runners hasn't lost for three years and expects to win. He said winning comes from an 11 month commitment to running to make sure that they are fit.
"For the first meet of the year, some were faster and some were slower, but overall it went well," he said.
"It was good getting five in the top ten, but (former Tuba City High School Coach) Bud Davis liked to get seven in the top 10."
Coach Lomeland's son Levy was the individual boys champ last year at the Hopi Invite, but this year he had to settle for fourth place. The coach said this team is strong because any of its top four runners can win the race on any given day.
"If any of them are having an off day, the others will let them know," he said.
Coach Lomeland said the three goals for the year are to win conference, win state and win the Doug Conley Invitational.
"We haven't had any injuries the past two years, but as a coach it's hard not to be paranoid. I remain concerned about illness, grades and accidents," he said.
Coach Lomeland praised the 3A North Conference, saying it's tougher than the larger school 4A North Conference which Page competes in.
"The best cross country is here. I would prefer to just run here and get the competition from Chinle, Hopi, Window Rock and Ganado," he said.
Chinle just moved down from 4A to 3A. Coach Lomeland said Chinle and Hopi are two tough teams and he expects them to take turns beating each other throughout the season.
"It will make the state meet fun. There will be a lot of brown faces up front," he said. "That speaks volumes about the quality of kids we have here."
Coach Lomeland said his runners need to keep practicing to also eventually become good college runners, but he is also concerned about the academics.
"My kids need to focus on the SATs and ACTs because Native Americans tend to struggle with standardized tests," he said.
Hopi Coach Rick Baker said the Bruins' third place finish was great considering they were missing one of their top runners. Chad Baker, who is also the coach's son, was out with a cold.
Coach Baker laughed when he was told about Lomeland's comments about Chinle and Hopi being competitive with each other this year. Baker noted that Lomeland is Chinle Coach Shawn Martin's former coach.
"It's early in the season and what counts is what happens in November," Baker said. "We'll take it one meet at a time and see how we're doing in the middle of the season."
Coach Baker said his runners performed the best they could considering they've only been practicing for a week and a half. He added that many area schools started school before Hopi.
Coach Baker said he only worries about the 3A North, and expects the toughest competition this year to come from Chinle and Tuba City.
"We need to stay healthy and practice more. We need to get into racing shape," he said.
Coach Baker said the Hopi cross country team has two basketball players running for the team: Vincent Timms and Vince Youvella.
"When a cross country team has basketball players running it says, 'we need help,' " he said. "They lack experience, but if they work hard they can help."
Coach Baker said Alban Tawahongva, who placed second in the junior varsity race, will move up and can help the Bruins.