Canyon del Oro's cross country team runs in a group - what else? - on a warmup jaunt down West Calle Concordia. The very together Dorados are pointing for a Division II state championship Saturday.


Nowadays, Rick Glider leads Canyon del Oro's practice runs from the padded seat of a tall, black mountain bike. It hasn't always been that way.

"There was a time I was out there running with them," the eccentric 62-year old coach said after Wednesday's practice, a two-mile tempo through the streets of northwest Tucson.

None of Glider's current runners were even alive when he began coaching at CDO.

"Nineteen years," he says, thinking back. "We've had some good teams. We've been second, third, fourth a couple of times, two eighth places and a tenth.

"But this year … this could be it."

Glider's optimism is due to the fact that this season's group - winners of the Sue Fletcher Invitational, the Rattler Invitational and last weekend's sectional race in Marana - seems to have a quality that none of his previous teams possessed: the exceptional ability to run as a pack.

And not just like, two or three or four in a pack. We're talking all seven.

At Saturday's Division II sectional race, for example, senior Lucas Rischar was CDO's top finisher. He took seventh overall with a time of 17 minutes 2.9 seconds. Freshman Jacob Bruno was the final Dorado to come across the line, earning 25th place and a time of 17:43.6.

That's seven runners separated by less than 41 seconds. CDO won easily.

"In terms of a group of kids running as a pack, they are probably the best I've ever had in all my years here," Glider said.

"It's uncommon," Rischar said. "We work together. Not many teams do that.

"When you think of cross country, you hear names. We don't really have outstanding people on our team so we work for the team instead of individually."

Last year, CDO had that big name; it was Daniel Wong. Nothing against the departed standout, but CDO might as well have worn WONG on its uniforms.

The team lacked depth, but more importantly it lacked cohesiveness. As a result, the Dorados didn't even make the state meet. Wong went alone.

"There's always going to be outstanding runners," Rischar said, "but how many times do you get an outstanding team where we're all within 40 seconds of each other?

"I'm perfectly fine with hearing 'CDO boys' rather than my name being chanted."

That sort of selflessness is one of several reasons the Dorados have gone from missing state to state favorites in one year. Rischar's return from a stress fracture in his back (it forced him to miss his junior season) was key and No. 2 runner Andrew Garcia became eligible after sitting out a year due to a transfer from Ironwood Ridge.

Two freshmen, Jacob Rischar and Jacob Bruno, have also come up huge.

Then there's the fact that the team ran six days a week, together, throughout the entire summer at a distance of at least 50 miles a week.

"Right away, we just bonded," Rischar recalled. "It was like we instantly ran together. We just took off from there. When you get a group of people like this, it just works."

The only goal left to fulfill is one sophomore runner Jordan Hellebuyck set months ago. He was writing on a whiteboard a list of objectives for the season. It was stuff like "Get nine hours of sleep" and "Eat healthy."

Then at the top, he drew a cloud and inside of it, he wrote: "WIN STATE."

"That's the dream," he said. "That's our dream."