Bradshaw Mountain High School's 2012 cross country team may surprise more than a few opponents, starting with today's home opener against Thunderbird and Sunnyslope from Phoenix and Florence's Poston Butte, said longtime coach Mike Simon.
"They already have surprised me," Simon said. "We have a very talented group of young runners."
Needing to fill the shoes of 2012 grads Ryan Madler, Esteban Morales and C.J. Unruh, a group of undergrads are stepping up. Junior Saul Martinez returns as a top contender after running at the No. 3 or 4 position this past season.
Simon said Elijah Shaffer, a sophomore transfer from California, also will challenge for the Bears' No. 1 spot.
"Elijah has a lot of potential," Simon said.
Fellow soph Satchel Clifford, a solid baseball player, has surprised everybody with his running ability, Simon said.
Simon called homeschooled junior Cody Sharp a great athlete who will contribute to the team, and he said freshman Raphael "Alex" Villagran already has made an impact.
"For those who follow Bradshaw cross country, Alex reminds me a lot of Omar De Los Santos," Simon said.
(De Los Santos placed fourth at the 2007 state cross country meet as a senior, and went on to play soccer at Wesley College in Dover, Del.)
Others who may be a factor, according to Simon, are Diego Vasquez, a senior soccer player running cross country for the first time, junior Tycien Chaney and soph Daniel Morales.
For the Lady Bears, Madler sisters Heidi, a junior, and frosh Hannah, will lead the way.
Returning runner and senior Desiree Woodruff is "always solid," Simon said, as is sophomore Erika Meza.
Other contributors will be senior Alex Davis, who very well could be the Lady Bears' fifth runner, senior Hannah Ashburn and junior Athena Dias.
"A whole host of new runners could end up on varsity, including sophomore Abigail Kelley and freshmen Chelsea McKenna and Kyanna Bruner," Simon said.
With 13 boys and 11 girls out, training is going well, the coach said.
Today's meet at Bradshaw Mountain Middle School in Dewey starts at 4 p.m.