Flagstaff High School’s cross country teams have been among Arizona’s most dominant programs over the past decade
Head coach Trina Painter attributes the success to more than the altitude in Flagstaff, or its reputation as a training location for elite marathon runners.
For Painter and the Eagles, trying to get better each day as a team and build relationships like a family has bit a big part of the program’s success. The runners for the boys and girls teams rely on each other to push them, which helps grow the team as a whole, Painter said.
“I think we have been able to really develop a strong program over the past 20 years,” said Painter. “We try to focus on the team atmosphere and create a feeling of family amongst the team. We try to have fun and work hard and provide opportunities for all of the athletes to contribute to the team and improve on a personal level.”
The boys team has won the Division II state championship seven out of the last eight years, finishing second in 2020. The girls team has won nine out of the past 11 state titles, finishing second in 2014 and again last year to Queen Creek Casteel.
Flagstaff has an altitude of 7,500 feet, an altitude that can benefit training runners. The city draws has drawn Olympic-caliber distance runners to train since the 1960s.
Flagstaff also offers a multitude of trails to practice on, Pianter said.
“I love Flagstaff and I think the training here is amazing,” said Painter. “We live at the perfect altitude and the summer provides great weather to prepare for the fall cross-country season. We have a lot of nice dirt trails to train on as well and the kids really enjoy running on them.”
This year, Painter and the Eagles are offering a new look. After graduating several of their varsity athletes last season, newcomers were given the opportunity to step up and gain experience at the varsity level.
“We have a different dynamic this year on both teams with some new faces,” said Painter. “I am really pleased with how we have done thus far and we hope to keep building on that.”
The Eagles were able to sweep the team title and individual titles this month at the Four Corners Cross Country Invitational at Buffalo Park in Flagstaff. The boys won the varsity race with 29 points, while the girls won with 34 total points.
Helping lead the charge for the Eagles girls team this season is senior Mia Hall, one of the state’s top returning runners who was named to The Arizona Republic’s all-state girls cross country team the previous two seasons. Hall entered the season as back-to-back D-II girls champion and will be looking for a three-peat at the state tournament.
Hall participated in the Bob Day Sweepstakes at the Woodbridge Cross Country Invitational in California, competing against more than 200 of the best runners across the United States. She finsihed 12th with a time of 16:17.3 in the 3.1-mile race the teams compete in.
Hall and her older sister Hana have been prominent names at Flagstaff, as Hana won the girls title in D-II in 2018 and 2019.
“Mia is an amazing young lady that works extremely hard, is very talented and yet so humble and approachable,” said Painter. “She is a great inspiration to the entire team to see what hard work and commitment can produce. We are very proud of Mia and its a huge blessing to have her on the team.”
Freshman Taylor Biggambler is a name to keep an eye on for years to come after she notched a third place finish at The Peaks Cross Country Invitational. Biggambler then followed up that performance by finishing fourth at the Fountain Hills Invitational. It wasn’t until competing at the Four Corners Cross Country Invitational that Biggambler had her best race of the young season so far, finishing first with a personal best of 18:53.30.
Among the boys team runners to watch this season is sophomore Cole Troxler, who finished third at The Peaks Cross Country Invitational, while also having his best finish at the Four Corners Cross Country Invitational with a time of 16:03.20. Along with seniors Spencer Lott, Dash McQuivey, Troy Baker and Shaydon Begay, the Eagles will look to bring in another state title and repeat as champions.