The four-time defending state champs have some competition.
The North Tahoe girls cross-country team edged Incline by seven points, 39-32, to win the Northern Division III/IV regional championship at Rancho San Rafael Park in Reno on Saturday.
“It was really tight,” first-year Incline coach JP Donovan said of the race. “It will be interesting to see what they (the Lakers) are capable of next week (at state). I’m not even sure which girl from North Tahoe will be up there, so it’s hard to know who to focus on.”
In a surprise performance, North Tahoe freshman Quinn Lehmkuhl claimed the regional title ahead of teammates Sophia Tallarigo and Tara Gallant, posting a time of 20:31 over the hilly, 5-kilometer course. Gallant, the defending state champion and the North Tahoe girls’ No. 1 runner all season, came in fourth in a time of 21:55. Tallarigo finished in 20:59.
Incline sophomore Hannah Laurie slipped into third place in a time of 21:30, while fellow Incline sophomore Stephanie Homola finished fifth in 22:48.
“At first I thought their (the Lakers’) No. 1 runner, Tara, was being strategic. But she might have just gone out a little hard,” Donovan said. “Their girls who have usually been the second and third runners on their team have been training hard all year and are real aggressive, and they just capitalized. They pretty much ran away from everyone.”
Incline senior Sophia Mourelatos finished eighth in a time of 23:45, senior Kate Ballan was ninth in 23:50 and sophomore Meagan Kelley was 14th in 24:05 to round out the Highlanders’ top five scores (the amount used for the team score). North Tahoe’s fourth and fifth runners, Holly Lewis and Ingrid Roske, finished 12th and 13th. Incline’s Molly Franklin was 22nd in 25:33.
Sierra Lutheran, whose top runner, Camille Cassidy, placed sixth in 23:18, was third in the team competition with 86 points. Wells (89) was fourth, followed by Sage Ridge (128), Yerington (135) and Rite of Passage (170). Whittell, Excel Christian and Virginia City did not have complete teams.
Donovan said with the state championship up next — this Saturday at the same regional venue — the Incline girls can’t help but feel some pressure to defend their state championship for a fifth consecutive year.
“There’s definitely some weight on their shoulders,” he said. “Sometimes they try to hide it because it freaks them out. But they definitely do care.”
The coach warned that both the Incline and North Tahoe girls must not overlook their biggest competition from the Southern Division III, The Meadows, whose girls swept the top five spots of their regional meet to take the title by a landslide, 15 points to runner-up Lincoln County’s 47. The Meadows is led by individual regional champ Jeneke Heerema.
“Both our team and their team (North Tahoe) will definitely have to watch out for them,” Donovan said.
On the boys’ side of the competition, defending state champion North Tahoe dominated the leaderboard, sweeping the top four spots and five of the top six to easily claim the regional title ahead of Sage Ridge, with 16 points to Sage Ridge’s 86.
Incline’s boys led by senior Evan Vomund finished third with 90 points.
North Tahoe seniors Noah McDermott, Shane Christian and Peter Holmes finished 1-2-3 in times of 16:32, 17:20 and 17:36, respectively, while teammate James Palacio was fourth in 18:01, and Julien Bordes was sixth in 18:12 to round out the Lakers’ top five scores. McDermott’s time was more than a minute faster than his regional title mark a year ago on the same course.
Vomund led the Highlander contingent with a 10th-place finish in a time of 18:27. Junior teammate Dylan Smith finished 14th in 18:56, Matthew Hanna was 16th in 19:08, Mitchell Cornell was 24th in 19:40 and Ryan Eppolito was 28th in 20:22. Owen Skelly and Nelson Bedient finished 34th and 35th, respectively, in 20:51 and 21:10.
Sierra Lutheran finished fourth in the team competition, with 103 points, and was followed by Virginia City (159), Silver Stage (196), Whittell (214), Wells (225), Excel Christian (230), Rite of Passage (235), Jackpot (246) and Owyhee (285). The West Wendover boys won the title in the south.