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Originally published Monday, September 9, 2019 at 12:54p.m.

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With Marauder freshman Makena Bliss leading the way with the overall top finish in 22 minutes, 34.48 seconds, Mingus placed four runners in the top eight finishers and all five of its scoring runners among the first 33 finishers in the field of 200 runners. VVN/Dan Engler

FLAGSTAFF – Without fail, Mingus Union head cross country coach Dave Moncibaez frequently reminds his freshman and sophomore runners that they are the future of his program.

At Saturday’s season-opening Peaks Invitational at Flagstaff’s famed Buffalo Park, the Mingus girls made a definitive statement that the future is now.

Competing in the open division 5-kilometer race, the freshman- and sophomore-dominated Mingus girls squad claimed the overall team title with a low score of 48 points, besting runner-up Flagstaff High School by 10 points.

In all, there were 20 teams and 200 runners in the open division Saturday and even before the race was complete, race announcer Ron Smith predicted Mingus would be the team champion.

With Marauder freshman Makena Bliss leading the way with the overall top finish in 22 minutes, 34.48 seconds, Mingus placed four runners in the top eight finishers and all five of its scoring runners among the first 33 finishers in the field of 200 runners. Bliss was the only runner in the race to run the course faster than 23 minutes. Mingus had a gap of 3-minutes, 28 seconds between its No. 1 and 5 scoring runners.

Another freshman, Maisie Babcock, finished fourth in her first race as a Marauder, covering the 5K course in 23:32. Sophomores Aubrey (23:36) and Claire Peterson (23:52) were fifth and eighth for Mingus. Senior Keeleigh Kreiner – in her first cross country race – was the Marauders’ No. 5 scoring runner. Kreiner was 33rd overall in 26:02.

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Another freshman, Maisie Babcock, finished fourth in her first race as a Marauder, covering the 5K course in 23:32. Sophomores Aubrey (23:36) and Claire Peterson (23:52) were fifth and eighth for Mingus. VVN/Dan Engler

Other top runners for the Marauders included senior Josey Valenzuela (43rd in 26:43) and freshman Safiya Sweeney (48th in 27:06).

Mingus Boys

The boys open race at Peaks Saturday can best be described as one giant traffic jam; 393 runners had to be started in two different waves with computer chip timing adjusting the times at the finish.

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Going out fast and escaping the early traffic was Mingus junior Jehiah Rogers, whose front-running tactics paid off as he finished fourth overall. Rogers covered the 5K high-altitude course in 19-minutes, 41-seconds as only 10 runners out of 393 dipped under 20 minutes. VVN/Dan Engler

Going out fast and escaping the early traffic was Mingus junior Jehiah Rogers, whose front-running tactics paid off as he finished fourth overall. Rogers covered the 5K high-altitude course in 19-minutes, 41-seconds as only 10 runners out of 393 dipped under 20 minutes.

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Mingus junior Riley Bliss

As a team, the Mingus squad finished fifth among 31 teams with 167 points, 100 more than team champion Flagstaff High School.

Other top-finishing runners for the Mingus boys included:

-Junior Riley Bliss, 23rd in 20:25.

-Sophomore Isaac Reynolds, 26th in 20:30.

-Freshman Keenan Brekke, 47th in 21:13.

-Senior Taylor Capite, 72nd in 21:51.

-Senior Chance Densmore, 74th in 21:51.

-Sophomore Retief Tapija, 85th in 22:08.

-Sophomore Andy Babcock, 105th in 22:24.

Wednesday, the Mingus boys and girls travel for a multi-school meet in Payson.

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