Hopi High runners win 24th consecutive state championship

Arizona Interscholastic Association official Wallace Youvella Jr. presents a medal to Anfernee Howard for finishing second in the race. Photo/Stan Bindell

Arizona Interscholastic Association official Wallace Youvella Jr. presents a medal to Anfernee Howard for finishing second in the race. Photo/Stan Bindell

POLACCA, Ariz. -The Hopi High School boys cross country team won a national record 24th consecutive state championship at the annual state meet Nov. 8 at Cave Creek Golf Course in Phoenix.

The Hopi High School boys cross country team won the Division IV state title.

Hopi won with 69 points, easily beating second place Pinon who finished with 124 points.

Pusch Ridge Christian grabbed third place with 147 points, Many Farms finished fourth with 195 points and Glendale Prep took fifth with 205 points.

Hopi High coach Rick "the Legend" Baker said excitement was in the air before the race. That excitement continued after the race with fans shaking team members' hands as soon as the race ended.

"Everybody thought we won, but the race results weren't official yet," he said.

Facebook and social media lit up with comments about the Hopi High championship.

"We were a little shaky coming in, but we pulled it off," Baker said.

Baker said the Bruins were a bit unsure coming in because Anfernee Howard and Slim Jackson were nursing injuries. Howard had problems with shin splints and Jackson had leg problems.

"I'm never satisified, but when you win the state title you have to be happy," Baker said. "It was awesome to win another state championship. It is beyond my belief to win 24 straight titles. It never gets old. The credit goes to the kids."

Baker said Howard and Honvetewa ran the best races.

"This year was different because we weren't as talented so it took more coaching and the guys had to work harder," he said. "We had to keep them together as a team."

Hopi High will lose three seniors to graduation, but four returning runners will form the nucleus of next year's team.

Howard, a junior, said it felt good to win another state championship because it showed that the Bruins' hard work paid off.

Howard said Hopi High runners ran a good race.

"We won, hah," he said. "The course wasn't hard, just here and there. You have to be tough."

Howard said the race was competitive.

"Each team and individuals have their strong points, but Hopi was stronger," he said. "The key to winning was knowing our state title is on the line and no one was going to take it from us."

Howard is looking forward to working toward the Bruins' 25th straight state championship next year.

Jackson said he was happy to see another title for Hopi High. He said this year was different for him because it was the first year he ran at state.

"We ran very strong fighting for that state title," he said. "The course was fun, but the heat and the rolling hills hurt. I was trying to fight the heat, but I was already sweating at the start."

Jackson said the race was competitive because Pusch Ridge and Pinon were racing side by side with them. He said the key to winning was teamwork.

He plans to run track in the spring and join the Army after high school.

Baker said he and his team will enjoy the championship and then start thinking about next year.

"It will depend on the four returners, how hard they are willing to work during the track season and the summer, but so far we've had good results," he said.

The rest of the scoring showed: Tanque Verde, sixth, 237; Flagstaff Northland Prep, seventh, 252; Northwest Christian, eighth, 268; Valley Christian, ninth, 285; Scottsdale Prep, tenth, 299; Tombstone, 11th, 314; Veritas Prep, 12th, 320; Alchesay, 13th, 324; Thatcher, 14th, 342; Arizona Lutheran, 15th, 350; Paradise Honors, 16th, 362; Morenci, 17th, 370; Red Mesa, 18th, 381; Bisbee, 19th, 409; Benson, 20th, 437; and Yuma Catholic, 21st, 463 points.

Josh Hoskinson from Arizona Lutheran was the individual state champion with a time of 16:14 in the race with more than 140 runners.

Hopi's Anfernee Howard grabbed second place with 16:32. The rest of the Hopi High championship team included Terry Honventewa, fifth; Kelan Poleahla, 15th; Jason Laban, 21st; Aaron Swimmer, 26th; Sean Sloan, 33rd; and Slim Jackson, 34th.

The runners for second place Pinon were Joe Adriano, seventh; Terrence Spencer, eighth; Leslie Begay, ninth; Milton Tso, 49th; Tyrin Begay, 51st; Tyric Begay, 52nd; and Lesean Begay, 107th.

The runners for fourth place Many Farms were Dominick Wilson, 16th; Zhariff Lee, 22nd; Sheldon Curley, 38th; Bryant Benally, 53rd; Chadwin Sells, 66th; Letrell Begay, 71st; and Taton Tso, 86th.

The runners for seventh place Northland Prep were Jonathan Hall, third place; Ben Hall, 48th; Ari Schwartz, 59th; Ryan Anhold, 65th; Robert Acker, 77th; Orson Wolkins, 105th; and Nick Schulz, 135th.

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