Top Tahoe runner signs with Otters |

Top Tahoe runner signs with Otters

Becky Regan
Becky Regan / Tahoe Daily Tribune

Connor Henderson, has three state titles, two regionals and usually a comfortable 10-second cushion separating him from the pack, but he still doesn’t know just how good he is.

“He’s untapped,” said Dominique Westlake, Henderson’s coach. “He has a whole other level that he can go to if he wants. Once he realizes how good he is that’s when he’ll go to the next level.”

Luckily, Cal State Monterey Bay realized.

The South Tahoe cross-country runner signed with the Otters last week. The hardware he’s pickup up during his last two years as a Viking helped him earn a partial scholarship to the Division II school.

It’s mind blowing to think Henderson hasn’t reached his full potential yet.

He blew away the competition at both regionals and state finals in the fall, outrunning some of the fastest kids in Northern Nevada by more than 10 seconds. Henderson torched a field of 52 elite runners at the state finals. He cruised in 13 seconds ahead of the nearest runner, averaging 5:22 per mile. It was nothing new. Henderson also won the state meet as a junior.

In addition to the back-to-back state titles, Henderson helped lead the Vikings to a team state title in 2011.

The list goes on. He claimed first at the Northern Division I-A Regional meet, 11 seconds in front of the second place runner.

“He is probably the most gifted runner I have ever had the pleasure of coaching in 20 years,” Westlake said. “I think if he gets around guys who push him to go to that next level you’re going to see some incredible stuff come out of him in the next four years. We pushed him as hard as we could.”

Monterey coach Greg Rhines will take it from here.

Rhines joined the Monterey cross-country program three seasons ago, and immediately started building up the Division II team. In the past three seasons, the cross-country team has reset the school record several times. The Otters also had a best-ever individual placing at the conference meet the last two seasons.

“The men’s team is young and restless, in a good way. They want more and are willing to work for it,” Rhines said. “Connor is adding more speed up front, which will help the team stay in the mix in more competitive meets.”

It was coach Rhines, and the camaraderie of the team that convinced Henderson he was at home in Monterey.

“I could just see myself going there, and I felt like I fit in,” Henderson said. “All the team members were really nice and the coach was nice too.”

The feeling was mutual because it was more than just impressive running times that landed Henderson on the team.

“Yes, fast times are important, and there is much more,” Rhines said. “There is the student-athlete’s commitment and dedication to their sport. Are they hungry? Do they talk about past races, future goals, and things to improve on? Do they know their times? These are some indicators for me. It’s a package deal when you get a student-athlete. What’s inside is all about what will come out.”

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