Back in the mid-2000s, Chino Valley High cross-country coach Marc Metz approached two of his coaching counterparts to get their thoughts about inaugurating an annual county championship meet.
It didn't take long for Prescott and Cottonwood Mingus Union to come on board, and several other varsity programs in Yavapai County soon followed.
During track and field season in 2004, Metz recalls speaking with Mingus coach Jim Bostwick and former Prescott coach Dan Pemble about starting a county cross country championship, and they both liked the idea.
"When I went to school in Scottsdale, we had the city championships, and it was kind of a fun meet at the end of the year right before what used to be regionals, but is now sectionals," Metz said.
A yearly meet that began in 2005 continues Wednesday afternoon on the 2.95-mile course at Pioneer Park's Brownlow Trail in Prescott, where the Yavapai County Championships enters its eighth fall and offers late-season bragging rights to the victors on the boys' and girls' sides.
The event kicks off with the JV open boys' race at 3 p.m., followed by the varsity girls' race at 3:45 and the varsity boys' race at 4:30.
Prescott's boys' and girls' squads are in the mix to capture their respective county trophies among a seven-team field that also includes Bradshaw Mountain, Camp Verde, Chino Valley, Mingus, Sedona Red Rock and Wickenburg.
Mingus Mountain Academy near Prescott Valley and Tri-City Prep in Prescott may show up for the race as well.
The county championships, hosted by Prescott and Chino Valley high schools, is the precursor to the sectional and state meets, which this year are scheduled for Oct. 27 and Nov. 3, respectively, in north Phoenix.
Prescott coach Clark Tenney and Bradshaw Mountain coach Mike Simon said the county championships offer prime preparation for the postseason.
"This is a terrific race every year," Tenney said. "There's a very high level of competition in our county."
Added Simon, "It lets runners know where they're at, at this time of year, before they head into the final big races."
On the boys' side, the Badgers narrowly won their first county championship in 2011, nipping Mingus on a tiebreaker, as both squads finished with 47 points.
Prescott snapped the Marauders' phenomenal six-year run as county titlists, and the former hopes to accomplish the feat again. Vincent Arminio, Simon Paige and Hosava Kretzmann lead a strong PHS team, while Jordan Bramlett and Gustavo Banks guide stalwart Mingus.
"That was a squeaker, and we felt lucky there," Tenney said of the 2011 race. "Hopefully something like that will happen this year. We've got our fingers crossed."
At Bradshaw Mountain, Simon said juniors Saul Martinez, Cody Sharp and Tycien Chaney, along with sophomores Satchel Clifford, Randy Ayala and Eli Shaffer, pace the Bears, who took third last year.
"The boys could potentially do very well," Simon said. "We have a real nice pack of five boys."
For Chino Valley, Cougars lead runner McKenzie Nez will likely sit out because of hip soreness, but Metz said he's confident in his depth nonetheless.
On the girls' side last year, Mingus claimed the county crown by a 34-point margin over the second-place Badgers, ending Red Rock's string of three straight titles captured from 2008-10.
This afternoon Prescott's girls, who have yet to win a county championship, and Mingus, a two-time titlist, should contend for first place again, Metz said, although Red Rock is solid, too.
Mingus' Skyler Storie, 2011's individual county champion, returns to defend her crown. Prescott's Nos. 1 and 2 runners, Claren Fraher and Jordan Twombly-Ellis, and Red Rock's Mykala Seresun should challenge Storie.
At Bradshaw Mountain, Hannah Madler, Desiree Woodruff and Athena Dias are the leaders, with top Bear runner Heidi Madler out with a hip injury. Bradshaw's girls' program, which finished third last fall, has won two county titles, in 2005 and 2007.
For Chino Valley, Metz said to keep an eye on Cheyanne Penton, Kelsey Randal and McKeisha Nez.