Oree Foster
Staff Writer, AZPreps365.com

St. Michael garners first girls cross country state championship

November 12, 2018 by Oree Foster, AZPreps365

St. Michael Lady Cardinals head coach Kelly Bia put in a lot of time and effort during the off season and it has paid off.

Bia guided St. Michael's girl's cross-country team to the Division IV State Championship at Cave Creek Golf Course in Phoenix this past Saturday. Paced by individual state champion Aliandrea Upshaw, the Lady Cardinals finished with 63 points, outpointing state runner-up Hopi Lady Bruins, who netted 102 points.

"There's a few," Bia said about the Lady Cardinals' key to cpaturing the state title. "Summer rebuilding phase is important and we continue to challenge them (runners) to put the work in during off season. That's is time when you get better. We are big on base building."

Bia continued, "Getting a group that wants to improve and support system that assists in those goals both at Saint Michael High School and at home. Just being patient and trusting training. We hit them very hard in beginning to few weeks past mid-season. We started to race more in October to get their bodies and mind to race when it counts. Peaking is crucial."

She said the team races for each other, which is the Lady Cardinals' race plan.

"It was just another race day and building on what we did since (the race at) Mount SAC," she said. "We did emphasize getting out in the pack. Reiterating to everyone they are important."

Bia was very proud of Upshaw's racing performance, enroute to earning the state championship. Upshaw, a junior, crossed the finish line in 18:15 over the 5K course.

"Ali had set mile times to gauge off," Bia explained. "She started off a bit slow. But got stronger as the race progressed. So it was good for her to stay determined and focused. She ran a ready good time. I was happy with her accomplishment."

The Lady Cardinals return six of its seven runners who competed in the state meet.

In addition to Upshaw, returning are sophomore Chiara Holgate (5th, 20:37), sophomore Auri Quintana (21st, 21:42), sophomore Lynelle Slim (26th, 22:11), sophomore Ashley Phillips (31st, 22:25) and sophomore Brianna Williams (105th, 25:27). The lone senior is Amaya Stuefen (114th, 26:02).

"All (the runners) are coming back, except for Amaya," she said. "She's (Amaya) our only senior. Ali will be a senior next year. Chiara, Auri, Lynelle, Ashley Phillips and Brianna will be juniors. We have some runners moving up from the mid-school program and a few from junior varsity that I would like to see get into our core group."

Bia added, "Our future looks good. We are young and have some junior varsity and mid-school runners coming up. I'm excited. We just have to continue to rebuild on this season and track."

Bia won her first state championship in 2006, when she guided St. Michael to the title.

"The base of the 2006 boy's state championship was the hard work of coach Terry Thompson," Bia said. "He had been coach for 11 years and had put St. Michael on the map for cross-country. That year (2006), he stepped down and I stepped in. That was really his building and accomplishment. I learned a lot from my father and continue to still learn from him."

She added, "This year's state championship is different because we built this from ground up for past four years, from when these young ladies were in middle school. It's exciting to see how they've grown."