|Senior Gustavo Banks. VVN/Travis Guy|
Marauders cross-country's top-2 runners, seniors Gustavo Banks and Justine Taylor, picked up their first individual wins of the season at the Bradshaw Mountain Invitational.
In addition to the individual finish, Banks' points helped the boys take home gold as a team with 39-points and the girls tallied 57 points, good enough to bring home the bronze.
"(A) highlight for us was senior Gustavo Banks getting his first win of his entire cross-country career," said head coach Jim Bostwick. "(It is) a nice way to finish his senior season."
Not only was Banks' win his first of the season; it was his first cross-country win of his career. The senior ran his 5K in 17:06, running against 38 other runners. Four seconds behind Banks was his teammate junior Jordan Bramblett. Bramblett and Banks, along with three other Marauders, all placed in the top-15 and earned points for their team.
"A nice pack there to finish off our scoring," Bostwick said about his No. 3-5 runners. "Sixth and seventh Marauders, although not scoring, actually helped us as they were ahead of all but one teams fifth runner, moving the other teams back in scoring."
While not earning any points, Mingus Union's No. 6-and-7 runners, juniors Joseph Cook (No. 21, 19:31) and Brendan Alexander (No. 24, 19:47), were just as important as the scoring members of the team as they were able to stay ahead of nearly all the opposing teams' No. 5 runner, taking away coveted points.
While the girls may not have been as dominant as their male teammates, the female Marauders placed four of their five runners in the top-15, and all in the top 25.
"Same as boys side, a senior finally (got) a taste of victory," Bostwick said. "Justine Taylor won her first race also."
Taylor ran her race in 20:23, and was six seconds shy of finishing the race two minutes before her teammate, sophomore Kelli Balensky, who completed the race in 22:17 and finished No. 7.
Mingus' next two runners, freshman Cassia Gehl and sophomore Maribel Cruz, finished within a minute of Balensky, settling for No. 12 and No. 13, respectively. Rounding out the Marauders female runners was senior Kaitlynn Lewis. The softball player is in her first year of running cross-country and at Bradshaw, the outfielder finished No. 24 in 25:20.
"I know I sound like a broken record but I am amazed each week how much the four girls (Kelli, Cassia, Maribel and Kaitlynn), in their first year of high school cross country, are improving," Bostwick said. "All athletes boys and girls all had their fastest times of years so no complaints at all."
The Marauders are entering the home stretch of their schedule now. With only three meets between now and the state meet, Mingus Union has to make sure it finishes ninth or better. The top-50 percent of teams (five or more runners) in each section will earn bids for the state meet.
Next up on the Marauders calendar is the Desert Twilight/Nike Pre-Southwest Cross-Country at Toka Sticks Golf Course, in Gilbert.