Vikings still pinching themselves over Nike meet selection
By Steve Yingling
Tribune sports editor
Several days after his South Tahoe High girls were selected to compete in the inaugural Nike Team Nationals, Dan Wilvers remains in disbelief.
“This is like waking up and being in the Little League World Series,” he said. “This whole thing is a mind-blower.”
For a first-year cross country coach, Wilvers has accomplished something only 39 other coaches in the country will duplicate. The Dec. 4 Nationals in Portland, Ore., includes 20 girls’ teams as well as 20 boys’ teams.
“There are no words to describe where we are or how we got here,” he said. “There are far greater coaches … far better coaches than me should have got this opportunity. It’s beyond me that I’m in this position. I’m only happy that I get to share this with (STHS coaches) Dom (Westlake) and Nancy (Dalton).”
Meanwhile, Wilvers’ girls accomplished something that wasn’t even on their list of goals at the beginning of the season.
“It’s really exciting because our goal at the beginning of the season was to qualify for state and we’ve done so much more than that,” said freshman Jordan Dalton.
Reality sank in Tuesday for his 10-member cross country team, which returned to training on snow-free trails surrounding the school on Tuesday. On Wednesday, they ran in the rain following a team picture shoot.
“It makes you forget how hard (the extra training) is and how great of an opportunity it is,” Dalton said.
However, despite a workout regimen that will lengthen their season by nearly a month, the girls have embraced their next challenge.
“I asked them if this is something they really wanted to do and without hesitation, they said, ‘Absolutely,’ ” Wilvers said. “The real job for the next month is trying to protect these girls from burnout, fatigue and keeping them sharp for class.”
Wilvers will give the team a four-day break for Thanksgiving as he plans to follow family tradition and attend the USC-UCLA football game in Los Angeles.
There also is a competition within a competition brewing for the Vikings. Wilvers can only take eight runners to the Nationals. The team’s top six runners are already determined but the remaining two team members will be determined at a Junior Olympic regional race Nov. 28 in the Bay Area.
By winning its first Nevada state title last Saturday in Boulder City, South Tahoe overtook three teams to finish second in Nike Team Nationals’ Southwest rankings. The top two teams in each of eight regions, as well as four at-large teams, will make up the boys and girls’ championships.
Wilvers was surprised when he received a phone call on Sunday from a Nike Team Nationals’ representative indicating that the Vikings had been selected for the championships. He had informed his team that their chances were slim of being selected.
“We are the new kids on the block. We’re the Utah Utes in the 2004 BCS and when you have three teams ahead of you and one directly behind you that all have national rankings, a lot of tumblers (had) to fall into place,” read Wilvers’ acceptance letter. “And then you call and make me look stupid. It never felt so great to be so ill-informed in my life and furthermore, the integrity of that call, though, I’m sure greatly debated, still held sway for the little lost girls of the Sierra Nevada mountains, who don’t even compete in the state where their school resides.”
As for how well he expects his team will do in Portland, Wilvers didn’t know what to say.
“I’ll withhold judgment on that,” he said.
Dalton, one of the team’s’ top four runners throughout the season, said the level of competition has led the team to set a modest goal.
“We think we have a chance, but we’re not expected to do that well because we haven’t been that great before. To be in the top 10 would be really cool,” Dalton said.