Longtime Incline cross-country coach Bill Devine was reluctant to use the word "legacy" to describe his girls' four-year reign atop the Nevada Division III ranks.
But someone has to.
Despite graduating several of the top runners in the state from last year's dominant team, the Incline girls captured their fourth consecutive state championship in Boulder City on Saturday, extending their all-time total to seven.
That number ranks second in NIAA history - tied with North Tahoe and Reno - while the four straight championships ties five other schools for second most. Devine's seven girls state titles places him in a tie with North Tahoe's Warren Mills atop the NIAA's all-time coaching list.
"I don't know what defines a legacy, but I'd say that they certainly are establishing themselves," Devine said of his girls.
Indeed. With a couple of experienced junior and senior veterans and a new wave of young talent, the Incline girls claimed four top-10 finishes en route to the team title with a low score of 32 points to runner-up North Tahoe's 58. The Meadows was third with 86 points.
"Time-wise, this isn't the strongest team we've had. But mentality-wise, I was pretty excited with how they ran," Devine said, adding that his third- through seventh-place runners almost reversed their results from regionals the previous week, illustrating the value of the team's depth.
A couple of freshmen led the way for the Highlanders, as Stephanie Homola finished second to North Tahoe's Tara Gallant, and Hannah Laurie came in fourth. Homola posted a time of 21 minutes, 20.8 seconds over the sandy, 5-kilometer course, compared to Gallant's 21:04.0. Laurie crossed the line in 21:54.1.
Incline junior Sophia Mourelatos finished seventh in a time of 22:16.3, while sophomore teammate Molly Franklin was eighth in 22:30.7 and freshman Julia Golimbik was 12th in 22:44.4 to round out the Highlanders' top five scores (the amount used toward the team score).
Senior Haley Kennedy was 13th in 22:55.8 and junior Kate Ballan was 16th in 23:41.9.
Homola gave Gallant a run for her money, staying on her heels the majority of the race until the North Tahoe sophomore used a strong kick on the hilly section of the course to pull away.
"She ran a good race tactically. The week before, Tara ran away from it from the gun," Devine said. "This past weekend, the plan was to try to run with her and put some pressure on her, and I Stephanie did, but Tara responded.
"We knew that she probably would. We talked to Stephanie about that and said, 'Hey, if you can stick with her, you're going to get to that hill, and whichever one of you is able to toughen out that hill is probably going to win it.' So I've got to hand it to Tara. But I'm not taking anything away from Stephanie; she ran a good race too."
Jeneke Heerema of The Meadows placed third in 21:28.3, and Sophia Gallarigo of North Tahoe was fifth in 21:55.4. There were 43 girls total. Sierra Lutheran (87) was fourth as a team, followed by Laughlin (122) and Virginia City (131).