MESA — As Rio Rico’s defending champion boys 3,200-meter relay team prepared to kick off the first event of the Division III/IV state championship meet, coach Steve Schadler’s message was simple.

“I told them to set the tone, and make a statement that Rio Rico was here to run,” Schadler said.

The team of Max Bojorquez, Oscar Amaya, Ben Noriega and Carlos Villarreal did that and then some, winning the relay in a blistering 7 minutes

55.38 seconds — not only a school record, but the fastest time in the state this season.

“We weren’t expecting to break eight minutes or set any records. We were just trying to win,” said Bojorquez, who ran the opening leg. “We don’t look for times.”

Rio Rico distance runners were ever-present on the medal podium on Friday; Noriega (9:21.59) and Amaya (9:30.59) picked up valuable points by finishing second and third in the 3,200 final.

On the girls’ side, the Hawks were boosted by a strong effort from dynamic freshman Allie Schadler, who won the 1,600 (5:04.62) and finished second in the 800 (2:21.20).

“I was very nervous today,” said Schadler, who also won the Division III cross country championship in the fall.

“I knew I wanted to win both races, but I did my best, and I’m happy.”

Friday’s results put Rio Rico in serious contention for a state title, particularly on the boys’ side.

“I’m excited for tomorrow, we’ve got a runner in almost every event, and

we should be able to pick up a lot of points,” Noriega said.

Rio Rico’s excellent overall day in the distance events was one of a number of impressive performances by Southern Arizona athletes on Day I of the Division III/IV championships at Mesa Community College:

  • Stephanie Boulger of St. Gregory and Miranda Jackson of St. Augustine Catholic successfully defended their Division IV state titles in the pole
    vault and shot put, respectively; Boulger cleared 11 feet, while Jackson’s winning effort measured
  • Pusch Ridge experienced a banner day of their own in the Division IV distance events.

The Lions scored runner-up finishes in both the girls 1,600 meters and the boys 3,200 thanks to junior Grace Johnson (5:18.09) and senior Kyle Cajero (9:37.17), respectively.

  • Senior Drake DeYonge brought home a state championship for Palo Verde
    in the Division III boys discus with a spectacular 146-foot throw, nearly
    8 feet longer than his nearest competitor.