Vikings run with the best |

Vikings run with the best

Steve Yingling

PORTLAND, Ore. – Tears and long faces haven’t been the expressions worn by South Tahoe High runners after too many races this season. But that was the mood for many of the Vikings on Saturday following the biggest athletic event in the school’s history.

The Vikings finished 17th out of 20 teams in the first national championship appearance for the school in any sport at the Nike Team Nationals Cross Country Championships at Portland Meadows.

Despite bettering their national ranking from Harrier Magazine by one spot, the disappointment partly stemmed from the Vikings’ aspirations to finish among the top-10 teams and knowing they had run better earlier in their prolific season.

“These girls ran their hearts out, but they didn’t have the gas,” said STHS first-year coach Dan Wilvers. “We were in the ninth spot (early in the race) and we were set to run our race, but we just didn’t have the (energy).”

The Vikings have responded to all of the big meets up until Saturday, winning the Stanford Invitational, taking second at the Clovis Invitational and capturing the girls’ first Nevada state cross country title, but that didn’t make their national shortcomings any more tolerable.

“I just wanted to be better,” said STHS freshman Jordan Dalton. “Not all of us ran our best races and I just wanted us all to do that.”

STHS boys’ coach Dominique Westlake, who paced the team through many of its workouts, saw no reason for the girls to be disappointed.

“You have to realize the level of competition and if you stumble just a little bit there will be two, three, four or five girls there to take your place,” Westlake said. “They can’t be ashamed of what they did, because they gave it everything they could possibly give.”

Meet favorite Kinetic Running Club out of Sarato- ga Springs, N.Y., ran away with the girls’ championship by placing four runners in the top 12. Kinetic tallied 51 points to outdistance SISU of Aurora, Colo., which scored 125. Three-D Running of Yanton, S.D., was third with 154 points, while South Tahoe’s top five runners totaled 365.

Beforehand, Wilvers had hoped that four of his runners could crack the top 55 in the field of 140. But only sophomore Kelsey McClurg and freshman Kate Lambdin were able to meet that goal, placing 46th and 50th, respectively.

“On the first loop they just started coming back and the numbers started blowing by them,” Wilvers said. “I just tried to will them to stay with Kate and Kelsey.”

Even if the Vikings had placed four runners in the top 50, they likely wouldn’t have finished higher than 12th, according to Wilvers.

Two factors seemed to contribute to the Vikings’ dissatisfying performance: the sticky mud throughout the five-kilometer course and limited training team members had before flying to Portland on Thursday.

“We were great in mid-November, then it just got real cold. We lost so many workouts the last 10 days, but you don’t use weather as an excuse,” Wilvers said.

The course was located in the middle of a horse-racing facility and included many elements that competitors had never seen before: motocross whoop-de-dos to change the pace, bales of hay to jump and gooey mud to slog through.

“It was really hard to run through the mud,” said STHS’s Kimmy Arroues. “The mud was real sticky, making it hard to pull our knees up.”

Anna Lambdin, running her final cross country race for the Vikings, said part of the course reminded her of a local pastime.

“It reminded me of skiing at Sierra-at-Tahoe, going down Smoky and going off jumps.”

McClurg led the Vikings with a time of 20 minutes, 11.29 seconds. Ramsey Kavan of 3-D clocked a winning time of 18:05.37.

Kate Lambdin responded to the challenge with her 50th-place time of 20:14.03.

“I was just trying to catch some of the fastest girls from the other teams, girls from the top teams in the country,” Kate Lambdin said.

She was followed by Hillyard in 77th place (20:40.38), Dalton in 91st (20:53.74), Arroues in 101st (21:03.83), Anna Lambdin in 129th (21:49.15) and Laurel Morrow in 137th (22:09.77).

In defeat, the Vikings comforted each other in the team’s tent beyond the finish line. Eventually the tears dried up and they became teenagers again, realizing they had accomplished something no one expected of them.

“I’ll remember how far we went, just making it here is such a huge accomplishment,” Hillyard said.

Westlake won’t forget the experience or the team.

“They’ve done something that no one else has ever done in South Tahoe High School history,” Westlake said. “They put their personal selves aside for the sake of the team, for the sake of each other. They should be proud of that. Not many people in the world can do that.”

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