A veteran of the rough course and a rookie runner had something in common at the 11th annual Valerie McGregor Rattler Co-ed Invitational.
Their winning times are the new bests in Division II this season.
Ironwood Ridge senior Melanie Zibrat won at the Marana course for the first time in four tries with a time of 19 minutes 8.4 seconds, while Salpointe Catholic senior Andy Trouard, a first-year runner, won in a blazing time of 15:31.6 in the boys race.
"I have kind of always hated this course just because the first time I ran it, I pulled my calf," Zibrat said. "I'm sure if I like it now, I'm just used to it. My time made it more enjoyable."
This is the second year the Mountain View-hosted race was held at the 3.1-mile Marana course because it gives teams a chance to have a practice run on the same course they will run at sectionals to qualify for state later this month.
Of the 26 teams that participated, Goodyear Millennium is the only one that won't be back Oct. 27.
Meanwhile, Zibrat and Trouard are hoping to match their performances then. So will both Ironwood Ridge squads who combined to win the coed title for the second straight year with 173 total points.
The Nighthawks girls team scored a meet-low 27 points and had their top six runners finish in the top 15.
"We have been training as a pack, and we're trying to get stronger and closer together," Zibrat said. "This really showed that our hard work is paying off."
Zibrat was the first of three Nighthawks in the top four. Kristin Powell was second in 19:22 after Canyon del Oro's Bridgette Doucet tripped near the finish line but still placed third in 19:26.3. Molly Latin was fourth in 19:30.8.
Rio Rico was the top team in the boys race, but Trouard took the individual spotlight in the first race of the day. He is in his first year of cross country after emerging as a triple state champion in track last year.
"It felt great, I really like this course," the former swimmer said. "It's flat, it's fun and I like all the different terrains and stuff - running on grass, then out in the desert and through sand."
Rio Rico had five runners in the top 20. Senior Robert Contreras led the way with a fourth-place finish in 15:45.9 despite a late fall, and senior Lee Jones took seventh in 15:50.1 to set a new personal best.
"We're finally putting it all together, but we've still got a lot of improvement to make," Contreras said. "We know when state rolls around we're going to be so much better."
Mountain View finished second in the combined team standings. Lance Pedersen finished 10th in the boys race in 16:02.6, and Karina Kelly was seventh in the girls race in 19:54.1 to lead the Mountain Lions.
Individual results, team scores / B11