STHS outduel Huskies, repeat state title | TahoeDailyTribune.com

STHS outduel Huskies, repeat state title

Steve Yingling

RENO – They ran like a team building a dynasty Saturday, not protecting one.

South Tahoe High avenged a regional loss to Reno for the second straight year to repeat as Nevada 4A state girls’ cross country champions. But to accomplish their yearlong goal, the Vikings had to bring down Reno on its home course at San Rafael Park, where they had never beaten the Huskies.

Four Vikings placed among the top seven finishers to help STHS overcome Reno’s stranglehold on the top four spots.

“It could have gone either way,” said South Tahoe coach Dan Wilvers. “I know how tough my girls are, and I know Reno is as tough as we are.”

As expected, the nation’s top runner Mel Lawrence cruised to the individual title on a blustery fall day. The Reno junior’s winning 5K time was 18 minutes, 28 seconds – 2 seconds off her course record.

After Lawrence, South Tahoe and Reno runners scratched and clawed for every runner they could pass.

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Ultimately, the Vikings finished four points better than the Huskies (32-36) to get the best of Reno in the biggest meet for the second straight year.

“I know Reno is as tough as we are, and Reno hadn’t gotten the ink that we had gotten on the national scene because Joelle (Slater) hadn’t run until last week,” Wilvers said. “The difference in this race was about halfway through I prayed. I said, ‘Lord, if it’s close, let us have it,’ and that’s what happened.”

Reno nearly pulled off a comeback win on the last downhill stretch when Nicole Lajeuenesse passed three Vikings to move from seventh to third place.

Lawrence couldn’t resist looking back at the “real” race as she slammed through the course.

“I tried to look behind me as much as I could,” Lawrence said. “I always wish their was something I could to help my team. Sometimes I wish I was back there and I was our third runner and I could help the team more than I could.”

Lawrence showed some clash by seeking out and congratulating several Vikings after she learned the team standings.

“South Tahoe is our rival, but they are all really nice girls. It’s like they deserve it,” Lawrence said.

Like she did in regionals STHS freshman Kylie Noll was runner-up in 20:14. Kimmy Arroues, Kate Lambdin and Kelsey McClurg ran as an indomitible pack, finishing fifth through seventh and within two seconds of each other. Their times were 20:38, 20:39 and 20:40.

“Kylie is so consistent and so good that I don’t worry about her. She just continues to amaze with her ability to throw down a race week after week, but likewise so does Kimmy, Kate and Kelsey. Those four haven’t had a bad race,” Wilvers said.

But the meet actually came down to each team’s fifth runners – STHS senior Megan Hillyard and Reno’s Megan Mathis. Hillyard was able to finish 15th (12th excluding individuals), compared to Mathis’ 22nd (17th excluding individuals). A week earlier at regionals, an ill Hillyard had to settle for 23rd place.

“Right after regionals last week I just couldn’t get it off my mind,” Hillyard said. “I felt a ton of pressure. I couldn’t concentrate at school. I knew it was all up to me, so I just did my best and it paid off.”

Although he paid highest tribute to his top four runners, Hillyard’s performance couldn’t be trivialized.

“She had huge pressure and she handled it. That’s why this is a team sport, because it takes five,” he said.

Arroues thought that by focusing on the bigger meets, the team benefitted.

“We weren’t going as hard last week, and we just wanted to qualify for state.”

Although the Vikings wanted to take the proper amount of time to enjoy the program’s second state championship ever, Wilvers looked ahead to next year.

“(A threepeat) is possible, but Reno is going to be really tough,” he said. “The only benefit is we won’t be racing on this course.”

South Tahoe wasn’t one of the two Southwest Region teams selected by Nike Team Nationals on Sunday for the upcoming national championships. Plain City, Utah, and Boulder, Colo, got the invites, but NTN will select four at-large entries in the next two weeks.

Reno’s Joseph Parker won the boys’ race in 16:58 as the Huskies finished 10 points ahead of Galena for the team title.

South Tahoe’s two state qualifiers, Patrick Reilly and Jack Williams, both ran competitive races. Reilly, a sophomore, moved up from 24th place halfway through the race to finish 19th in 18:14. Williams, a senior, came in 34th in 18:46.

“I was real pleased with their races. They went out and got after it,” said STHS coach Dominique Westlake.

Williams encountered some chest discomfort after the start and gutted it out to the finish.

“Basically, you have to focus, try as hard as you can and do what you can,” Williams said.

Reilly found a runner to share drafting responsibilities with for part of the race and it worked better for him.

“He led me past six guys,” Reilly said. “Then I took over and passed two more and he tried to stay with me and I just kept the same pace and he died.”

Reilly will set the bar high for his junior year.

“Definitely to finish top five will be my goal,” he said.