Controlling your Angora
South Tahoe High’s cross country practice doesn’t cause agoraphobia – fear of public places – but might spawn bouts of Angoraphobia – fear of the route to Angora Lakes.
“They’re not going to like it after a while,” said Viking junior runner Manuel Lomeli, a veteran of three years of training on the school’s infamous Angora Lakes routes.
“Then again, it all pays off in the meets,” said senior teammate Grant Carter.
The state and zone championships are the reason coaches make new cross country recruits intimately familiar with the route to Angora and the team’s other haunts. This year, the team started training earlier to place themselves ahead of schedule, and the team’s new members are adjusting to the 8- and 9-mile runs that are commonplace during the season. So, while zone – Oct. 28 at Reed – and state – Nov. 6, same place – are months and many more miles away, the end of the season is much closer in the minds of the runners.
“You always try to peak right at your zone and state meets, and we don’t feel we did that last year,” said Carter, a member of the South Tahoe team that took third at zone and sixth at state last year. The top four teams from each zone qualify for state, and the Vikings aim to be among that number later this fall. Failing that, the top 15 runners qualify for at-large state bids.
The top seven runners during practice earn the varsity slots for the week’s meets. South Tahoe has runners from all four classes on its team, which means even veterans like Carter and Lomeli expect to be bumped for some meets. Competition begins at 3:30 p.m. Friday with the Galena Invitational at Galena High. In addition to league meets, the team also has scheduled trips to the Nevada Union Invitational Sept. 19 in Grass Valley, Calif., and the Stanford Invitational Oct. 2 in Palo Alto, Calif.
Friday’s race offers the runners a chance to race within their class ranking, not their classification as varsity or junior varsity.
“Personally, I really think my girls will make a showing in each age level,” said South Tahoe girls coach Kathy Bluethman. Bluethman’s team is a young one, with one returning state qualifier in sophomore Marin St. Michele. Along with St. Michele’s seven classmates, there are six freshmen, two juniors and four seniors currently on the team. Lisa Orr returns from an illness-marred junior season with high goals and a good showing in practice. Katie Sheehan and Caitlin Robinson have been pacing a big freshman class among the girls.
“I’m looking for an injury-free season, and just for the girls to be the best they can be,” Bluethman said. “My goal is just to keep them motivated and have them fall in love with cross country. It’s an awesome sport.”
The boys return six runners from last year’s state tournament team. Senior Cory Martin, junior Jeff Cosmi and sophomores Jeff Koeck and Steven Moore join Lomeli and Carter this year. The younger members of the team, too, are adjusting to the intense training schedule.
“They’re responding really well,” said boys coach Dominique Westlake. “They’ve got some positive attitudes. In order to be a cross country runner, you have to be mentally tough in the first place.”
The Angoraphobia, then, is in check.
“I think they’re more excited than anything else because they’re being trained more than they ever have before,” Westlake said.
While the team sees Carson and Hug as its major competition, the course that stands out on the schedule is Reed’s, which the runners will tackle Sept. 10 for the Reed meet – and, they hope, Oct. 28 and Nov. 6 – for zone and state. The Reed course is flat, with a long hill near the finish, and the Vikings hope their experience climbing and elevation training pay off there.
“You get more durability,” Lomeli said.
Also, South Tahoe plans to build on its base layer of fitness from early season practice with intervals and speedwork, which the Vikings hope translate to fast times on the Reed course at the end of the season. And a payoff for all those training runs at Angora Lakes.
“It’s going to be a competitive league and it’s exciting because it’s raising the level of competition in northern Nevada,” Westlake said.
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