by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Jesuit sophomore Zoe Fanning took an early lead in the 800 and never looked back, winning the race over Sunsets Nicole Griffiths on April 16.

The changeover from junior varsity girls’ track star to undertaking varsity tyro is no walk in the park.

There’s not as much arm-twisting to perform on JV because points don’t count toward the team’s hopes of winning. The coaches take time to work with JV runners, but the attention to detail and stringent training programs aren’t on par to the varsity level.

On varsity, it’s ferocious and fervent, particularly in Metro where the best athletes are Darwinian in their drive to make a name and race to the winner’s circle.

Mostly a JV competitor last year, Jesuit’s Zoe Fanning has so far flourished in an expanded role as the Crusaders’ fastest 800 runner. On Wednesday, April 16, Fanning flew to the front of the pack and didn’t fall back, running a personal best 2:19 for first place.

When “Jesuit” is stretched across the front of your tank top, there’s an obligation to bring your best by any means, Fanning pointed out. Yet it’s a good sentiment, something to stem success.

“There’s a lot more pressure, which I feel is a good thing,” said Fanning. “I didn’t get as big of PR’s last year as I am now, pushing myself, being pushed by other people and trying to go for it on varsity. I like the whole environment of it.”

Fanning said she went out “a little too fast,” but since that strategy helped her succeed in Jesuit’s prior two meets, decided to stick with it and lead the way for the 800 field. Learning the varsity pace of the 800 is still unaccustomed to Fanning, though racing Sunset’s Nicole Griffiths — a state finalist in the 800 last year — gets her in the groove to figure out where she needs to be in the coming weeks.

“I try not to let my fast start freak me out,” said Fanning. “Sometimes other girls have that happen, and they shut down. I try to push through and know I have to keep that up for the whole race and not back down.”

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Jesuit senior Abby Watcher took first place in the 100-meter and 300-meter hurdles and helped the Crusaders 4x400 relay beat Sunset on April 16.

The sophomore’s severance from Griffiths and the field just 200 meters into the race was so sudden that it seemed to stun the other competitors, who customarily wait for the final lap to make a move. Even more impressive than the split was Fanning’s finish as the Crusader kept Griffiths away with a steady final lap. Jesuit trains to be as fast, if not faster than the first lap of the 800, which Fanning thinks gives the Crusaders an edge.

“I felt strong, like I could push through,” said Fanning. “Generally I’m pretty good at kicking toward the end, and in my mind saying, ‘OK, I’m almost done so I have to go now if I’m going to give it all I have.’ I knew I could stay in front of (Griffiths) or stay with her, but I wasn’t going to let her pass me.”

Jesuit junior Chloe Smith beat out Sunset’s Kasey Stavig for first in the 400 for the Crusaders, who beat the Apollos, 98-47. Crusader senior and 2013 state finalist Abby Wachter swept the 100-meter and 300 hurdles, and helped Jesuit’s 4x100 and 4x400 relays take first as well. Hadley Wilhoite won both the long and triple jump. JoJo Ananouko threw 131’ for first in the javelin. Corbitt won the high jump (5-00) and Kathrina Slater cleared 10’ in the pole vault for first place.

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Sunset's Taylor Coon won both the 100-meter and 200-meter dash against Jesuit on April 16.

Power forward

Sunset’s star sprinter Taylor Coon said she hadn’t had a 100-meter race where she “felt fast” this season until the Crusader meet, when a quick start out of the blocks helped hold off Jesuit’s Claire Corbitt for the 12.65 victory. Coon’s time was her fastest 100 finish of the season, and one that was aided by Corbitt’s surprising speed in the lane to the Apollo’s right.

“I like having competition, so running with girls close to me is really helpful,” said Coon. “I started with the small steps that gave me a lot of power.”

Corbitt — like many former and current Metro sprinters who’ve tested Coon — stayed close for a few precious seconds only to see the amped Apollo break away with state-title-worthy closing speed.

“Those last 20 (meters), I come out harder,” said Coon. “I try to build to max speed and hold it.”

Jesuit’s Alex Dixon — Coon’s greatest rival and toughest competition in both the 100 and 200 — actually didn’t dress for the meet because of a pulled groin. The two have gone nip and tuck the past couple of seasons at both the district and state levels, with Coon’s power usually getting the better of the younger Dixon. Yet, Coon relishes the rivalry both because of the competition and the friendship the two sprinters have formed over the years.

“It makes me go faster knowing someone’s on my tail, rather than having a bunch of time and not knowing what to do with it,” said Coon. “We’re actually pretty close just running against each other the past couple years.”

The all-state soccer defender and Arizona State commit enjoys making friends like Dixon on the track circuit as opposed to the pitch, where venomous wars are waged inside the white lines. Coon’s success doesn’t depend on how Dixon does.

“My competition is myself, for the most part, on the track,” said Coon who also won the 200 against Jesuit. “There aren’t any physical battles as opposed to soccer. It’s more of a mental battle in soccer because there’s a lot of back talk. It’s all friendly out here. We all like each other.”

Savannah Sharp won the discus and shot put for Sunset. Griffiths took first in the 1,500, while Charlotte Corless beat Jesuit’s Dylan Hite in the 3,000.

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