Reigning state champs running on full tank | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Reigning state champs running on full tank

Steve Yingling

Dan Thrift/Tahoe Daily Tribune The South Tahoe High School girls' cross country team placed 17th in the first Nike Team Na

How can the South Tahoe High Vikings possibly top their amazing feats from a year ago? The school’s first state title, the team’s first national ranking and a 17th-place finish at the inaugural Nike Team National Championships were part of the unexpected swag the Vikings collected following a season removed from a third-place league finish.

Success, however, has a way of making some athletes lazy and others to try even harder.

These Vikings haven’t become satisfied as their alarm clocks sounded off during the summer almost as much as they do during the school year.

They religiously followed another challenging summer training schedule, five of the team’s top six runners returned when practices began last week and they welcomed several key additions.

“I think we’ve trained a little bit harder this year and our workouts have been better than they were last year,” said junior Kimmy Arroues, who led the Vikings with a fourth-place finish at the 2004 Nevada state meet.

STHS second-year coach Dan Wilvers, however, is cautiously excited about the prospects for a repeat of 2004.

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“Without question (we can be better),” Wilvers said. “The intangibles are the issue. How sick will we get? Will we have any injuries – things like that are out of our control? Last year, we were pretty much healthy for all the big races, so we were fortunate.”

The team’s budding chemistry may be the ingredient that makes the Vikings even stronger this fall. Wilvers and boys’ coach Dominique Westlake created a friendly running environment over the summer with reservoir and lake runs and a weeklong camp at Mammoth Lakes.

“We set the bar in front of them. We try to make it fun. It’s their choice who they want to be as runners,” Wilvers said.

Team bonding was clearly evident in a repeat hill climb on Viking Way last week as team members encouraged each other through the tough workout.

“The most exciting thing is the camaraderie these girls have with not only themselves but the guys on the team,” Wilvers said. “They get along well, there’s cohesion and that’s my dream come true as a coach. It’s icing on the cake to have a set of talented kids who are willing to work so hard. They get it.”

Besides Arroues, Wilvers welcomes back two of the top-50 finishers at last year’s NTN Championships in Kelsey McClurg (46th) and Kate Lambdin (50th).

The talent pool doesn’t stop with the top-three returners as senior Megan Hillyard has been strong during summer workouts and sophomore Jordan Dalton was one of the team’s most consistent runners a year ago.

So far the goals are modest for the Vikings, who have been ranked second in the Southwest Region of the first Nike Team Nationals poll.

“We want to win state again. We know we can do it,” Arroues said. “We want to go to the Nike (championships) again, but we don’t know if we will.”

Arroues and her teammates are well aware that one of the country’s best programs lies 65 miles northeast of here. The Reno Huskies were knocked off their state perch by the Viking a year ago and are a major threat to restart a dynasty that began by winning back-to-back state championships in 2002 and 2003.

Mel Lawrence who has dominated state and national races since she was a freshman returns for her junior season. But the Huskies go much deeper than Lawrence.

“They don’t lose anybody,” Wilvers said. “We never underestimate Reno. They have the regional and state meets on their home course where they are almost unbeatable. They know when to move, twitch and sneeze on (their Rancho San Rafael County Park) course.”

But the Vikings likely have the strongest addition to their program in freshman Kylie Noll. Noll dominated the Tah-Neva League last year, winning all of her races and only once did she not defeat all of the male competitors, too. She also set records in the 800, 1,500 and 1,600 meters while at STMS.

Added depth will come from senior Heather Newman, junior Lacey Payne and sophomore newcomer Courtney Chichowicz.

The new national contender has added a third big meet to their regular-season schedule. Besides returning to high-profile meets at Stanford and Clovis, the Vikings will make a trip to Southern California for the Mount Sac Invitational.

Schedule

Date Meet Time

Sept. 2 Douglas 3 p.m.

Sept. 14 Manogue 3 p.m.

Sept. 21 STHS 3 p.m.

Sept. 23 Stanford Inv. TBA

Sept. 30 STHS Inv. 3 p.m.

Oct. 8 Clovis Inv. TBA

Oct. 15 Elko 3:30 p.m.

Oct. 19 Damonte Ranch 3 p.m.

Oct. 22 Mt. Sac Inv. TBA

Oct. 28 Regionals (Reno) TBA

Nov. 5 State (Reno) TBA

Breakout

Coach: Dan Wilvers, second year

Last year: 17th in nation, state champs, regional runner-up, first place at Stanford Invitational and runner-up at Clovis Invitational.

Key returners: Kelsey McClurg, junior, 46th in 2005 national meet; Kimmy Arroues, junior, 101st at national meet, fourth at state meet; Kate Lambdin, sophomore, 50th at nationals, sixth at state; Jordan Dalton, sophomore, eighth at state and 91st at nationals; and Megan Hillyard, senior, 77th at nationals and 13th at state.

Key addition: record-setting Kylie Noll, undefeated in Tah-Neva League girls’ meets as an eighth-grader at South Tahoe Middle School.

Key to season: Can the team stay as healthy as last year.

First meet: Sept. 2 at Douglas.

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