Vikings work their way back toward top | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Vikings work their way back toward top

Steve Yingling

Dan Thrift/Tahoe Daily Tribune Dominique Westlake, left, critiques running forms during a recent South TahoeHigh cross country team practice. Westlake, entering his 14th season at STHS, is excited about his runners' work ethic.

Losing four contributing seniors from a third-place state finish would devastate many teams.

But not the South Tahoe High boys’ cross country squad.

Dominique Westlake’s returning core of runners has worked so hard that the veteran coach doesn’t foresee the loss of four of his top seven runners a noticeably small turnout impacting team results.

“I’ve had more talent, but I’ve never had a group work as hard as these guys have worked to bring each other along,” Westlake said. “I’m very honored to be around these guys for what they’ve done.”

Westlake once welcomed 35 runners into the season. This year, he’s coaching 14.

“Declining enrollment and pay to play have affected it and this sport is not easy. It takes a certain type of person who wants to come out and work as much as these guys want to work,” Westlake said.

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Having such a small teams has had it’s advantages, though. The boys and girls trained together three days a week during the summer and have bonded and supported each other on arduous repeat runs of Viking Way, Angora Lakes Road and a steep trail under the school’s old ski lift. They have logged as much as 55 miles per week.

“It shows their strengths and how much they respect each other,” Westlake said. “When someone is having a hard workout, they are talking to each other, encouraging that person to get out of that funk and get going again. That’s rare for kids to come along and have that much character and be willing to care about the other person as much as themselves.”

Getting an early start on those workouts – 8:30 a.m. – has helped the Vikings nourish their love for running.

“It gets my day going,” said senior Jack Williams. “If it’s in the afternoon, you just think about it all day and by the time the run comes, you just don’t feel good about running anymore. When you run in the morning, you just go and you’re done, and you feel better about it.”

Top retuners include Patrick Reilly, who as a freshman led the state meet race for the opening mile before fading to 21st. In addition, Williams and junior Kyle Conroy bring back big meet experience.

Williams was 17th at regionals and 38th at the state meet, while Conroy placed 18th at regionals. Sophomore Joey Summerhill also has been impressive during summer workouts.

“We’re running four strong right now. We just need a fifth,” Reilly said. “If we get that fifth, I think we’ll be all right.”

If the Vikings are to contend for one of the Northern Nevada League’s two state berths, the team must find a way to make up for the loss of Alex Sharp and Bryan Kurek. Sharp was seventh at last year’s state meet, while Kurek came in 10th.

“We lost a lot of seniors, so it’s definitely going to be an uphill battle, but I think the kids here are gonna be able to step up to the challenge,” Conroy said.

After getting a taste of the state meet last year, these hard-working Vikings aren’t settling for anything less in 2005.

“Last year was great and this year we want to hopefully get second in state,” Williams said.

South Tahoe starts competing against the clock on Friday at Lampe Park in Gardnerville. Racing begins at 3 p.m.

Breakout

Coach: Dominique Westlake, 14th yearLast year: Third at state, runner-up at regionals.

Key returners: Junior Kyle Conroy, sophomore Patrick Reilly, senior Jack Williams and sophomore Joey Summerhill.

Key losses: Bryan Kurek and Alex Sharp.

Opener: Friday at Douglas.

Schedule

Date Meet Time

Sept. 2 Douglas 3 p.m.

Sept. 14 Manogue 3 p.m.Sept. 17 Nevada Union TBA

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. 28 Regionals (Reno) TBA

Nov. 5 State (Reno) TBA

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