No. 5 runner holds Vikings’ key to state
In the previous two seasons, the South Tahoe High girls entered the Northern 4A regional cross country meet as the favorite.
Today, the Vikings could be hard-pressed to qualify for the state meet due to some lingering injuries.
The two-time defending state champions have yet to win a regional title during their mini-dynasty and that trend figures to continue today at Rancho San Rafael Park in Reno. The Reno Huskies and one of the nation’s top female runner Marie Lawrence are the favorites to lead the region into next week’s state meet.
South Tahoe, however, is concerned about Carson possibly overtaking it for the final state berth. Only the top two teams advance to state.
“It’s in the realm of possibility,” said STHS coach Dan Wilvers.
The Vikings’ top four runners – Kelsey Smith, Kate Lambdin, Kylie Noll and Kimmy Arroues – are projected to finish ahead of the Senators’ No. 1 runner, but Wilvers is concerned that his fifth-best performer could be well back in the pack.
“Carson will run to their ability, I have no doubt,” Wilvers said. “We’d crush them in a dual meet, but in large races your fifth is everything.”
Last year, the Vikings had no trouble placing their top 5 runners among the best. But senior Kelsey McClurg’s chronic back problem, senior Arroues early season virus and junior Jordan Dalton’s multiple turned ankles have cut into their training and consistency. Arroues is returning to form, but Wilvers is unsure if McClurg or Dalton can deliver the necesssary result today.
“If Kelsey and Kimmy stay healthy, we are most likely a nationally ranked team,” Wilvers said. “We would have been top 3 at Stanford and top 5 at Manhattan.”
Instead, the Vikings placed 10th at Stanford and 13th at Manhattan, starting speculation that they were something amiss.
“It just seems dramatic, but when you remember we weren’t going to win anything unless those five stayed on their game,” Wilvers said.
STHS boys peaking at right time
With Reno head and shoulders above the rest of the league, the South Tahoe boys have set Carson as their benchmark for today’s regionals.
Carson will attempt to contend with Galena for the region’s second berth to state. The Vikings figure to be among teams capable of finishing third or fourth.
“We may not beat them, but we want to get as close to them as possible,” said STHS coach Dominique Westlake. “These guys run fierce and aggressive; they don’t back down from anyone.
“If we were to finish third, we would have made huge progress, but it could be done if we have our race and a Carson runner or two is off theirs.”
Westlake noted that progress earlier this month when both schools competed at the Clovis meet in Fresno.
“It will come down to our 4-5 men (Joey Summerhill and Evan Rabbetts),” Westlake said.
Patrick Reilly, Kyle Conroy and Chris Gamage have been the Vikings’ top runners throughout the season. Conroy, the team’s only senior, however, has contributed much more than results.
“Kyle’s senior leadership has been second to none. He has been an invaluable asset to this teams’ success,” Westlake said. “I wish Kyle was a junior and not a senior, so he could come back next year and reap the rewards of his hard work this season. He can, however, take pride in what he has done for them this season, and they should be grateful of what he has done for them.”
South Tahoe enters regionals as the state’s fifth-ranked team but likely won’t get to showcase that ranking at next week’s state meet in Las Vegas.
“The North is stacked on talent this year. Two of the top 5 teams in the state will not be running in the state championships. If we were a Southern team, we would qualify for state with no problems,” Westlake said. “It would be nice for the NIAA to look at balance of power in all sports and sending more teams from the stronger divisions to state and less teams from the weaker divisions. I think this would create a more competitive state championships.”
For those teams that don’t qualify for state today, there are precious a sparse amount of individual qualifying spots available. Only the top five runners not on qualifying teams advance to the state meet. Westlake said the Reilly has the best chance of qualifying.
“He was running fifth individual earlier in the season, but he has moved up as the season has gone on,” Westlake said.
Conroy and Gamage aren’t far off the top 5, with Conroy averaging 9-10 and Gamage 10-12.
Wherever his boys finish, Westlake is certain that they will give everything they have.
“These guys run with fire and passion. Their body language when they run speaks volumes as to how much they want to compete,” he said. “That’s something I can’t coach, that comes from within and shows what kind of competitors they are.”
Defending state champion Whittell will compete in the Northern 2A regionals today at the same venue. In past years the Warriors were required to run regionals in Eastern Nevada, but for once team members could spend the night before in their own beds.
“It’s a luxury,” said Whittell coach Lindsay Wines.
Wines said her boys have a solid chance of defending their regional title.
“They seemed to be focused,” she said. “All our runners are healthy again and we’ve had a really good week of practice.”
Freshmen Adam Kingman, Allen McCleod and Adam Laub will play key roles in the outcome since the team’s top runners David King and Willis Hughes consistenly finish near the top. Seniors Ryan Bivens and Reed Brun are also being counted on keeping the Warriors’ score low.
Independence, which defeated Whittell earlier, ROP and Sage Ridge are expected to give the Warriors their stiffest competition.
Miranda Flores will lead the Whittell girls today.
“She has improved tremendously and the most improved kid on both sides of the program,” Wines said. “She’s worked hard all year.”
Abrie Parrish and Amanda Heiser will also compete for the Warriors.
The 2A boys’ race starts at 2 p.m., the 4A boys at 3:10 p.m., 2A girls at 3:45 p.m. and 4A girls at 5:05 p.m.