Depth issues trail Vikings to Manhattan
Bound by a nine-runner roster caused great concern to Dan Wilvers before the 2006 South Tahoe High girls’ cross country season even started.
Now, more than six weeks into their most ambitious schedule ever, the third-year STHS coach’s worst fears have come to fruition. Injuries have eaten into what little depth the two-time defending state champions had and there is no junior varsity to replenish their depleted roster.
In fact, the Vikings could possibly register an incomplete score on Saturday when the school competes in its most distant event ever at Cortland Park in the Bronx.
“It will be interesting to see if we can get to the starting line with five healthy girls,” Wilvers said. “This is the race of a lifetime, not unlike Nike Team Nationals, except this course has a history over 75 years long. We hope to make our school proud to be represented in New York in the year’s biggest race.”
Lingering injuries to senior Kelsey McClurg (back) and juniors Jordan Dalton (four turned ankles) and Courtney Cichowicz have rendered them questionable for the prestigious New York meet. Combined with two other team members not making the trip, and the Vikings could be limited to four runners at the starting line Saturday.
“It is a bit of a mystery to me as to why a two-time state champion team has only nine girls out for the team, and for the second straight year only one new freshman runner,” Wilvers said.
Wilvers was unsure if McClurg would race, even though his veteran runner’s back was much better following recent treatment by a chiropractor. McClurg missed the Oct. 4 home meet and the Vikings have been idle since then.
“How we would love to have her race in N.Y., but that is a big question mark,” Wilvers said. “The upside is there is one girl who has the savvy to compete with little work, it’s Big K.”
Wilvers has little concern about the way his top four runners are performing. Freshman Kelsey Smith, junior Kate Lambdin and sophomore Kylie Noll have been consistently good from the first meet, and senior Kimmy Arroues has been coming on strong in recent weeks.
“Lil’ K has been the biggest surprise. She’s just nails tough and she has been national quality at the two big races … arguably one of the top five freshman on the West Coast,” Wilvers said. “Kylie has really been working very hard the last three weeks, and no one races more all out. Kylie will be fast this week.
“Kate is just phenomenal. Work, work, work, that is the ingredients of her success. Kate has fun running, but she also tries hard. Her summer was an exceptionally strong base. In many ways Kate is the backbone of this team. Kimmy has made the biggest move in the last three weeks. I knew she would, because she is such a competitor.”
The Vikings will need to be at their best because the Manhattan Invitational is nothing short of a national championship. Ten of the NTN’s top 25 teams will compete, including defending national champion Hilton (still No. 1) and 2004 NTN winner Saratoga Springs, N.Y. The meet is so saturated with top teams that it is being dubbed the “Perfect 10.”
Community members may be able to see the Vikings on TV on Friday morning. Wilvers said his team was invited to CBS’ Good Morning America Show.
A surging STHS boys’ squad, now ranked fifth in the state, will compete in the Bella Vista meet on Saturday morning near Sacramento.