A year after decimating their cross-country competition at regionals and state, the Incline girls showed they are still top contenders among the Division III ranks despite losing their top guns.
With all five of their scoring runners finishing among the top eight, three of whom are freshmen, the Incline girls claimed the team title at the Northern Division III regional championships at Rancho San Rafael Park in Reno on Friday.
The regional title marked the fourth in a row for the Incline girls, who will now seek a fourth consecutive state championship this week in Boulder City.
Incline head coach Bill Devine said he knew his young team had the depth to challenge for the regional title, but he didn't want to be overly confident with rival North Tahoe also fielding a solid young team.
"You can do whatever you want on paper, but you have to show up for the race," Devine said, adding that the Highlanders are "in a good cycle right now" with quality middle school coaching and programs feeding into the high school.
Freshman Stephanie Homola led the way Friday, as she finished second to North Tahoe sophomore Tara Gallant in a time of 21:26 over the 5-kilometer course. Gallant finished in 21:11.
Another Incline freshman, Hannah Laurie, was third overall in 21:47, while fellow Incline runners Kate Ballan was fifth in 22:07, Haley Kennedy was sixth in 22:08 and Julia Golimbik was eighth in 22:19 to round out Incline's top five scores (the number used toward the team result).
That gave the Highlanders the team title with ease, as they posted a low score of 24 points to runner-up North Tahoe's 55. Sierra Lutheran was third with 75.
Incline also fared well outside of its top five, as Sophia Mourelatos was 10th in 22:37 and Molly Franklin 11th in 22:56.
A total of 68 runners competed, and eight schools.
The Incline boys might have brought home a regional title as well if it weren't for North Tahoe.
As they've done all year, the Laker boys dominated en route to the regional title, posting the top four finishes overall. Incline came in second by a score of 23-47. Sage Ridge was third at 102 and Sierra Lutheran fourth at 113.
North Tahoe junior Noah McDermott won the individual title in a time of 17:32, while Incline senior Levi Dodge led the Highlanders with a sixth-place finish in 18:01.
Incline's Josh Lewis was eighth in 18:08, Evan Vomund was ninth in 18:09, Owen Graffis was 10th in 18:09 and Matthew Hanna was 14th in 18:50. Dylan Smith was 15th in 18:50 and Daniel Baron was 16th in 19:07.
There were 68 runners in the race, and 10 schools.
The Incline boys' second-place finish qualifies them for the state championship, as the top four teams from the North advanced (only one team from the South).