The three-time defending state champion Incline girls cross-country team opened the season with a win at the Warrior Warpath Invitational in Zephyr Cove this past Friday.
The Incline boys finished second in the annual Whittell meet, which sends varsity runners on a hilly, 3.1-mile course that includes a sometimes-adventurous water crossing.
After graduating three of the top four Division III (formerly 2A) runners in the state from last year’s team, the Incline girls claimed three top-10 finishes to post a low score of 19 points to runner-up Spring Creek’s 55 points and third-place Fernley’s 74.
Freshman Stephanie Homola led the Highlanders individually with a fourth-place finish in a time of 23 minutes, 50 seconds. Jody Meads of Fallon won in 22:11.
Incline junior Kate Ballan finished sixth in 24:26, while freshman teammate Julia Golombik placed 10th in 25:26, Sophia Mourelatos was 11th in 25:29 and Hannah Laurie was 12th in 25:50 to round out the Highlanders’ top five scores (the amount used for the team score).
Incline’s Haley Kennedy (25:54) and Molly Franklin (26:02) finished 13th and 14th, respectively. A total of 54 varsity girls competed.
While the young girls squad easily captured the victory, longtime Incline head coach Bill Devine warned that North Tahoe also boasts a strong team filled with talented young runners. The Laker girls did not record a team score because many of their top freshmen and sophomores competed in the JV race.
“So it’s a little misleading to think that we are by ourselves out front,” Devine said.
In a field of 84 varsity boys, junior Evan Vomund and senior teammate Levi Dodge led the Incline contingent with seventh- and ninth-place finishes in times of 19:33 and 19:39, respectively.
That helped lead the Incline boys to a second-place team finish behind North Tahoe, which swept the top three spots. North Tahoe posted 28 points, Incline 76 points and third-place Spring Creek 110.
“Our boys are stronger this year, but North Tahoe got much stronger,” Devine said. “I don’t want to speak for Warren (Mills, North Tahoe’s head coach), but he could probably challenge all the big schools in the state.”
Incline senior Daniel Baron finished 12th in 19:46, while sophomore Matt Hanna was 22nd in 20:24 and sophomore Dylan Smith rounded out the Highlanders’ top five in 21:15. North Tahoe junior Noah McDermott won the race in 18:37 and was followed by teammates Sean McDermott (18:41) and Patrick McElravey (18:45).