Rincon/University senior Noah Kenyawani knew he had to take it easy during the first mile of Friday's Division I, Sectional II race at Freestone Park in Gilbert.
Saddled with a cold earlier in the week, Kenyawani was told by coach Anneli Henneke not to push himself early and save all his energy for a late-race kick.
That's exactly what Kenyawani did.
He made a move with a couple hundred meters left and held off Gilbert Highland's David Graham to win by one second with a time of 16 minutes 2 seconds at the 3.1-mile course.
Rincon's Ryan Silva finished fourth in 16:15 to help the Rangers place fifth as a team, qualifying for next week's state meet in Phoenix.
"I just waited and waited to make my move like my coach told me to," Kenyawani said. "I was in fourth place and I could see everyone ahead of me and I just said to myself, 'I have to win this race. I have to pass these guys.'"
Sierra Vista Buena joined Rincon as the only two Southern Arizona boys teams to advance to state. The Colts finished sixth.
Cienega didn't move through as a team, but the Bobcats did qualify a pair of individuals in Brian Wargaski (14th, 16:44) and Zach Deason (18th, 16:51)
On the girls side, Buena and Cienega qualified for state. Cienega finished fifth and Buena was eighth.
"I was really pleased, because we got moved up to Division I from Division II and to come up here and qualify for state is special," Cienega coach Eric Boxley said.
The Rincon girls missed moving on by one spot, finishing in ninth place.
The Rangers' Emily Page was the top Southern Arizona finisher, taking 11th place with a time of 19:51.
"Emily improved by more than a minute and finishes 11th after taking sixth last year," Rangers coach John Radspinner said. "That just tells you about the level of competition this year.
"It was off the charts."
sectional cross country
Today at Marana High
• Girls: Division II, 8:15 a.m.; Division III, 9:45 a.m.; Division IV, 11:15 a.m.
• Boys: Division II, 9 a.m.; Division III, 10:30 a.m.; Division IV, noon