Vikings can make a deep run with ‘5Ks’
Some call them the “Special Ks.” The girls themselves are partial to the “Killer Ks.” Others prefer to stick to running speak and refer to them as the “5Ks.”
Any way you slice it, they are extremely good.
Five runners on the 2006 South Tahoe High girls’ cross country team have a first name that begins with the letter K: Kelsey McClurg, Kimmy Arroues, Kate Lambdin, Kylie Noll and Kelsey Smith. Collectively they could become the Vikings’ greatest country team ever. That includes the 2004 team that won the school’s first state title and finished 17th in the first Nike Team Nationals in Portland, Ore.
“It appears by sheer paper evaluation to be the best team yet with the addition of Kelsey Smith and six of the top seven returning,” said third-year STHS coach Dan Wilvers. “However, Reno is also as strong as they have been the last three years. We both have the potential to do some national damage.”
Reno welcomes back one of the nation’s elite runners in Mel Lawrence for her senior year. The Huskies, however, go much deeper than Lawrence, who will gun for her third straight individual state title. Only older sister, Collier, has been able to defeat Mel at state, edging her by .42 of a second in 2003.
Although the friendly and high-caliber rivalry between the Vikings and Huskies didn’t help either school in the national rankings a year ago, that should change this fall. South Tahoe will travel east to the Manhattan Invitational in October to challenge Hilton and Saratoga, last year’s top two finishers at the Nike Nationals, and the Vikings are also planning to attend the Stanford and Woodbridge invitationals in September.
The Vikings stepped up preparations for a state three-peat in June, working out five days a week. Wilvers broke up the rigorous running schedule with some mountain bike rides and hikes.
Spending more time together only strengthened the bond the team formed years ago.
“All of us are friends,” Lambdin said. “We have a lot of fun when we are together. Dan always says it’s social hour when we first get to practice. That’s pretty much how we keep motivated.”
In past seasons the Vikings have always cast their eyes on the biggest prizes – regional invitationals and state championships – and come away with the hardware. In each of their past two state championship seasons the Vikings did not win the regional title the week before. That missing championship seems of little significance as the Vikings set their goals for 2006.
“We are all hoping to take state again, and we want to go to Nike Team Nationals,” Lambdin said. “We’re trying to work really hard, do well at Manhattan invite, and so well at all of the races we get to go to this year.”
Arroues and McClurg bring the most experience to this year’s team. The fourth-year varsity members continue to bring the consistency and results to the team that they did as freshmen.
“I admire them,” Lambdin said. “They balance school time and their running time really well. They helped make the program a really good success.”
Of course, there are several runners behind the “Special Ks” who wouldn’t mind breaking them up to further strengthen the team. Juniors Jordan Dalton and Courtney Cichowicz and senior Mary Kurek are being counted on to give the Vikings quality depth.
While it isn’t a prerequisite for a runner to have the first initial of K to join the team, Wilvers has been fortunate in each of the past three years with new runners. Last year, it was Kylie, who placed second at state and regionals. Before that it was Kate who made a big splash as a freshman, helping the Vikings win their first state championship.
Now it is Kelsey Smith’s turn. Smith has trained with the Vikings the past two summers, knowing that she’d one day race with one of the top programs on the West Coast. But Smith didn’t officially become an Viking until this summer when her family moved their residence across the state line into California.
“Kelsey Smith is a great addition to our team,” Lambdin said. “She has a great personality and is a really hard worker. She will be really awesome.”
Smith demonstrated her immense talent last December when she finished sixth in her age group at the USATF national championships in Smithfield, R.I.
“‘Pequena K’ as she is affectionately referred to by her adoring teammates is as tough as they come,” Wilvers said. “She will be very good, with an emphasis on very.”
If there is a concern entering the season, STHS has no room for injuries. With only eight total runners in the program, an injury or two could be devastating.
As a result, Wilvers has given his girls more recovery time following tough workouts like the five-day running, hiking and biking camp at Mammoth Lakes earlier this month.
“I’m a bit surprised we only have eight girls out for both JV and varsity,” Wilvers said.
Wilvers offered several possible reasons for the low turnout.
“The perceived excellence of the program is intimidating and cross country training is hard and boring,” he said.
The “Special Ks,” or is it the “Killer Ks” don’t see the sport that way. They expect to sweat, but they know rewards come to those who work harder than others.
“We’ll shoot for our best, work hard and work well with each other,” Lambdin said. “We’ll have a really fun season no matter which way it goes.”
9/1 Class races at Lampe Park, 3 p.m.
9/13 McQueen/Hug at Hug, 3 p.m.
9/16 Woodbridge Invitational, 9:05 p.m.
9/20 Reno, Carson at Carson City, 3 p.m.
9/22 South Tahoe Relays, 3 p.m.
9/30 Stanford Invitational, 3:44 p.m.
10/4 Douglas/N.Valleys at STHS, 3 p.m.
10/14 Manhattan Invitational, N.Y., 2:37 p.m.
10/18 Wooster/Damonte at Damonte, 3 p.m.
10/26 Regionals, TBA
11/4 State championships, TBA