Grace And Lauren Ping Are Joining A New Power Program In AZ

Grace and Lauren Ping are headed to Arizona.

And with it, the duo's enrollment to Desert Vista High School will create a power shift not only in girls cross country in the state of Arizona, but nationally. The extraordinarily talented Ping's, whose family is moving to Phoenix, are headed to one of the state's strongest prep distance programs. National-level success won't be too far behind. 

Transfers have shifted the calculus of national-level program in recent years, but no girls program in late memory will benefit from the kind of boost two national-level runners could provide. 

It's a fair question: Will the Thunder immediately become of the country's best girls cross country squads? 

There's a chance the team immediately moves up the pecking order in the Southwest region, heaving strong potential against foes like like Mountain Vista (CO), Battle Mountain (CO), Lone Peak (UT) and Desert Hills (UT). 

But first, the girls of Desert Vista, who last won an Arizona state championship in 2016 and own three in their history, will have to prove they can take down defending Division I champs Xavier Preparatory (AZ), Chandler (AZ) and Highland (AZ).

The Thunder finished fourth in their own state cross country championships in 2018 and didn't even feature at NXR Southwest. They last qualified for Nike Cross Nationals in 2016. 

The girls team is coached by Michael Bucci -- while the boys are led by Chris Hanson.

But the team returns five of seven, including senior Katy Clausen, who went 17:58.00 in 2018. It has three others who broke 20 minutes as sophomores and juniors. 

The Ping's will surely bring star power to Desert Vista.

In the fall of 2018 Grace, a rising junior, raced at both Nike Cross Nationals and Foot Locker Nationals, then qualified for the IAAF U20 Cross Country Championships in Denmark, where she finished 60th on the 6K course. She brings with her three state titles from Minnesota and an XC PR of 17:10.80.

But maybe her biggest attribute -- one you can't teach -- will be her 'big-game' experience at national-level championships and against women twice her age. 

Lauren, meanwhile, is a rising freshman who remains just as talented. She is a two-time All-American at Nike Cross Nationals who brings an XC PR of 17:07.72 to the mix and two state championships from Minnesota. She's arguably the top rated freshman in the country, and was fifth overall in the two-mile at New Balance Nationals Outdoor. 

Meanwhile, there's no argument Desert Vista is the strongest boys program in the state. It's won five straight Division I cross country titles in Arizona -- and 10th in school history -- before finishing 10th at NXR Southwest. 

There's something to be said about carryover in culture. Don't be surprised when the addition of the Pings catalyze Desert Hills into a power team among the best in the country.