The Centennial boys and girls cross country teams are hoping to pull an upset this weekend in Reno.
The upset would be winning state titles in Reno. It hasn’t been an easy assignment for Southern Nevada schools when the meet takes place there in odd-numbered years.
The last time a large-school team won up north was in 1999, when Green Valley’s girls won at Reed. The last time a large-school boys team won state in an odd-numbered year was 1987, when Basic prevailed at San Rafael Park in Reno.
The state meet returns to San Rafael Park on Saturday with six division races, starting with the Division III boys race at 10 a.m.
Centennial’s girls, led by Sunset Region winner Sydney Badger, prevailed over Arbor View by six points in the Sunset meet. Both teams appear stronger than the other team qualifiers: Palo Verde in the Sunset; Green Valley, Coronado and Foothill in the Sunrise; and Douglas, Galena and Carson from the North.
But races aren’t won on past performance. The home course has been a huge factor, especially among the girls. In 2011, Northern Region teams finished first, second and third, while in 2012 Southern teams grabbed the top three spots.
“What do I see as being the key to beating the teams from up north?” Centennial coach Roy Session asked. “We just need to run like we have been doing all season, my (No.) 1 and (No.) 2 take it out and run aggressively, (Nos.) 3, 4, 5 keep pushing on closing the gaps, and we can run with anyone. When you are running on their home course, you cannot run with any fear or change what you do.”
It helps when your top runner, Badger in this case, is dominant. Badger won the Sunset meet with a time of 18 minutes, 27.6 seconds. The second-place time was 19:32.
“(Badger) is in tremendous shape,” Session said.
Arbor View and Douglas would appear to be the teams most likely to challenge Centennial. Arbor View is led by Zanae Jones, the Sunset runner-up, and a strong supporting cast.
The Aggies matched the Bulldogs by placing three runners in the top seven. Their five scoring runners were in the top 14, one spot ahead of Centennial’s fifth runner. Douglas won the North regional going away, with 33 points to runner-up Carson’s 67.
Looking to challenge Badger and Jones for the individual title are Coronado’s Sara Dort, the Sunrise winner and third at state in 2012; Palo Verde’s Melissa Suan, the state runner-up in 2012; Douglas’ Lindsey Adams, the North winner who won state in 2011; and Reno’s Kyra Hunsberger, runner-up in the North.
Centennial’s boys won state titles in 2008, 2010 and 2012. In 2011, they finished runner-up to Galena.
This year, Centennial dominated the Sunset Regional, scoring 19 points with a 1-2-3-4-9 finish for Dajour Braxton, Jackson Carter, George Espino, Seth Wright and Jason Day. Palo Verde (74) and Shadow Ridge (84) also qualified from the Sunset.
Coronado, Green Valley and Foothill qualified from the Sunrise, while the three Northern qualifiers were Galena, McQueen and Douglas.
Matching the nine qualifiers based on best times over the 3.1-mile distance this year, Centennial is favored to win, with only Galena close. But factoring in the home-course edge for the North makes it too close to call.
Along with the Centennial runners, others in the hunt for the individual title include Northern champion Kia Benedict of McQueen and Eldorado’s Eddie Esquivel, who was first in the Sunrise and had the top time among the 10 Southern individual qualifiers. Coronado’s Colin Schaefer and Green Valley’s Austin Rogers also could contend.
In Division I-A, the top qualifiers from the south are Tech’s boys and Faith Lutheran’s girls. Both easily won the South titles.
“Tech, although not as deep as last year’s region-winning team, is faster than last year’s squad,” coach Tony Kyriacou said. “We are going to Reno with one thought in mind, and that’s the state championship.”
Tech’s Martin Ponce and Sunrise Mountain’s Ebonique Diaz were the individual winners in the I-A Southern Region meet. Ponce was second at state and Diaz third a year ago.
In the Division III girls race, The Meadows leads local qualifiers. The Mustangs scored a perfect 15 points in winning their region meet, led by two-time Southern Region champ Jeneke Heerema.
“We know it will be a difficult task to go up north and capture the title,” The Meadows coach Charles Bernick said. “It looks like North Tahoe is the team to beat.”