Vikings putting in extra miles to reach familiar heights | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Vikings putting in extra miles to reach familiar heights

Steve Yingling, Tribune sports editor

Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune

Over the past five years, one South Tahoe High athletic program has consistently delivered a Nevada state championship of some sort.

And the pieces are in place for the STHS girls’ cross country team to continue that trend this fall. South Tahoe is ranked No. 1 for Nevada by Nike Cross Nationals.

Senior Kelsey Smith will attempt to join Reno graduate Mel Lawrence in winning three straight Nevada 4A girls’ individual titles.

Coaches Dan Wilvers and Nancy Dalton should be able to make a run at the school’s third state team championship in six years if the squad can avoid the nagging injuries that plagued it last year. Unprecedented depth and an experienced group of runners give the Vikings a shot at unseating defending state champion Galena. Wilvers projected Carson and Reno as top teams as well.

“This team will go nine or 10 deep,” Wilvers said. “I’m not aware of who’s coming on in the south, but we do know we have everyone back from last year’s team, so we like our chances to compete at state again.”

Smith is on the verge of joining some fast company. Abbie Miller of Green Valley High in Las Vegas holds the all-time Nevada girls’ state record by winning four straight titles from 1996-99. Inga Thompson of Reno captured three consecutive championships from 1979-81, and Lawrence was the last runner to win three straight from 2004-06.

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“It’s my last year, so I’m a lot more driven and focused,” Smith said. “You want to do your best your senior year, so you can go out on top.

“I definitely feel a lot better than I did last year or the year before. I feel stronger, but you never know until the first race rolls around and you are up against your competition.”

Wilvers is holding off in proclaiming his star runner as one of the state’s best ever.

“Kim Orlando (late 1980s) and Shanna Sparks (2000-03) of Carson were great runners in their day. But yes, three titles, though not unprecedented, is a huge, huge accomplishment. If she were to do it, would put her in the discussion,” he said.

If Smith is able to make it three straight, she’ll have to beat one of her teammates – sophomore Shelby McIntyre. McIntyre won the Northern 4A regional 3,200-meter title last spring and was fourth in her first state cross country meet last fall.

“(Kelsey’s) chances are very good,” Wilvers said. “She has seemingly overcome her gluten intolerance through her special diet, and I’m thinking she has a lot to prove, not just to Nevada after her track season, but to the entire west region as a whole.”

Other returning STHS runners with regional and state experience are juniors Torrie Zaccor and Karly Arroues and sophomores Cassidy Cichowicz, Kira Smith and Kaelyn Dion. Cichowicz was running nearly as well as McIntyre in middle school before recurring foot problems wiped out most of her freshman season.

“It’s the deepest team we’ve had and the closest the six to seven (top) runners have been since I’ve been here,” Smith said. “It’s crazy. They all work so hard, and they’ve gotten so much better than last year.”

The Vikings have been conducting voluntary workouts since June 1, and local physical therapist Alan Barichievich has helped develop the core strength of each runner.

“This will be the most base miles we’ve ever done going into the season, and we incorporated tempo runs right from the beginning and have stepped up our regular run pace as well,” Wilvers said. “Co-coach Nancy Dalton and my goal is to have stronger runners that don’t peak too early. We’ve held off their more intense interval workouts in hopes of having a definitive peak in November and hopefully at the Western regionals in late November.”

A week of the summer program was spent in San Luis Obispo – home of Jordan Hasay, one of the country’s top young female runners. Hasay, who will run for the University of Oregon this fall, worked out with the South Tahoe team for one day.

“She’s really down to earn and lot of fun to hang out with,” Smith said. “We talked about how much we’re looking forward to college and everything.”

With all of the hard work the team has put in, obviously some of the goals reflect that difficult preparation.

“I’d definitely like to win state, and I would love for our team to win state,” said Smith, who is considering Stanford, UCLA, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Oregon and Washington for her higher education. “That is a possibility with all of the training we’ve done and all of the hard work the girls and Dan and Nancy have put in. It would be great for us to be rewarded with something like a state title.”

2009 STHS girls’ XC schedule

Date Meet Time

Sept. 4 UNR Twilight Races (Sparks) TBA

Sept. 16 Elko and Galena at Hug 3 p.m.

Sept. 23 Manogue, Douglas at STHS 3 p.m.

Sept. 26 Stanford Invitational TBA

Oct. 2 South Tahoe Invitational TBA

Oct. 7 Carson at Wooster 3 p.m.

Oct. 10 Clovis Invitational TBA

Oct. 21 Damonte at Fallon 3 p.m.

Oct. 24 Spanish Springs Invitational TBA

Oct. 29 Regionals TBA

Nov. 7 State (North) TBA