Whittell earns first girls cross country title. | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Whittell earns first girls cross country title.

Of all the birthday gifts sophomore Christina Arana could have hoped for on her birthday, she got the one she wanted the most, the first state title for the Whittell girls’ cross country team.

“I couldn’t think of anything that could be better. It was just awesome,” Arana said. “I was with the best people I could be with on my birthday — the girls. We’ve just so bonded this year, it’s awesome.”

The Whittell girls’ cross country team upset four-time defending champion Faith Lutheran 44-56 to bring home its first 2A state title in Boulder City, just outside Las Vegas. It also happened to be Arana’s 16th birthday. She celebrated with her team and with members of her extended family who live in Vegas.

But the biggest celebration was for Whittell’s girls’ team. Each of the seven Whittell girls set personal records. They also earned the Jostens-Academic State Championship with a team grade point average of 3.90.

Its a big finish for a team that earned its first-ever Northern title only a week before.

“We’re really proud of each other. We all get along really great and we had a great time,” said senior Lorin Kline, 17. “It’s just a really good way to finish things off. It’s a great last race to have.”

Whittell coach Brian Rippet said the girls started conservatively and let the other teams block the wind for them. After 1/2 mile they were back in the team race, but looking strong when Faith Lutheran’s girls were beginning to struggle.

“This played right into the hands of our vaunted ‘Go-Go Offensive,'” Rippet said.

The “go go offensive” is a strategy where a group of girls spring ahead of a runner. The group make it more difficult to pass, not so much by size but by intimidation.

The Kline sisters, Kristin and Lorin, plus Danielle Daly picked off runner after runner, including four Faith Lutheran Crusaders, between miles one and two, moving up from the mid 20s into the top 15.

“Three people passing another person gets their spirits down, so it’s easier to keep in front of them,” Lorin explained.

Faith Lutheran’s final victim, Justine Masselli, wasn’t discouraged easily, though. She recovered the first two moves the girls made on her by going back in front of the “Go-Go’s” each time. But she couldn’t hang on after the final move in the third mile. Lorin, who had been ill all week, intentionally slowed just after passing Masselli the final time as Kristin and Daly sped off and quickly opened a 50-meter gap to close her out.

Lorin then sped back up and maintained her position and outsprinted Masselli to the finish. The Go-Go’s (Whittell’s fourth, fifth and sixth runners) all finished ahead of Faith Lutheran’s fourth, fifth and sixth runners, which proved to be the deciding difference in the team race as Whittell was only up 19-21 after its”big three” finished.

Up front, Faith Lutheran’s Cassandra Murlz battled Incline’s Addie Devine for the individual title, with Devine pulling away in the final 1/2 mile to win the 5-kilometer race.

Arana was fourth overall and the top overall Whittell runner. She improved her place from last year by 12 spots. Senior Kim McGlothlin was seventh, improving her place from last year by 21 spots. Senior Aly Van Deusen was ninth in her first year of cross country.

All three of them, and the first two Go-Go’s (Daly, 14th, and Kristin, 15th) made the all-state team.

Lorin finished 16th. Nika Hsiao, Whittell’s seventh runner, ran a 5K PR by over a minute to finish in 30th.

Incline finished third, ahead of Laughlin, Carlin and Indian Springs (135).

WHS boys runner-up

Enduring high wind mixed with gravel, the boys finished second overall to Faith Lutheran and one spot ahead of three-time defending champion Wells to earn their first state cross country trophy and best finish since the days of Gary Anonni in 1980.

Senior Oscar Suarez pushed through the wind to finish as the top Warrior at fifth at 19:19 in the 5K.

Sophomore Sho Kashima, who just missed the all-league team as Whittell’s No. 5 runner last week, and 15th overall, ran “the race of his life” and finished 10th (19:39) to make the all-state team along with Suarez and Brian Beebe, who finished 11th at 19:56.

Coach Rippet said the larger runners such as Beebe, Justin Alexander (25th) and Mike Komorowski (29th) had a tougher time because of the wind.

“It was incredibly windy,” Beebe said. “At around the first mile marker (a runner from Incline) blew into me. And he ended up taking me down with him. It was really rough. I felt like a kite in the wind the whole race.”

Danny Mitchell, Whittell’s fourth runner, finished 19th, ahead of Alexander and Michael Chilton (26th).

“I’m sad that we didn’t win, but that’s the way it is,” Beebe said. “Everybody on the team gave it their best. They gave it all they possibly could, but it wasn’t our day.”

“Having a better performance than last year was good,” Beebe added. “Second’s not too shabby at all.”

Faith Lutheran finished first with a score of 46. Whittell wasn’t far behind at 57, followed by Wells 71, Independence (116), Pyramid Lake (123), Trinity (145), Laughlin (172) and Indian Springs (194 ).

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