Centennial teammates Badger, Gorczyca cross paths in Sunset Region meet

Centennial's Sydney Badger hasn't been beaten in a cross country race in Southern Nevada since November 2010, the year fellow freshman Katie Gorczyca led Palo Verde to its first state title.

Two years later, the two are teammates and a major reason why the Bulldogs are the favorites in the Division I Sunset Region meet Friday at Veterans Memorial Park in Boulder City.

The meet starts at 8 a.m. with the Sunrise Region boys race and will include boys and girls races from both Division I regions as well as Division I-A and Division III. The final race is set for 1 p.m.

Badger beat all comers in Southern Nevada last fall but finished sixth at state in the thin air of Reno. Gorczyca didn't run at all, having left the Palo Verde team at midseason.

Gorczyca, who attends West Career and Technical Academy (which has no athletic programs), was granted varsity eligibility at Centennial by the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association in the spring. This fall Badger and Gorczyca have been unbeatable against local competition and excelled at invitationals in California.

Badger has been turning in times that haven't been seen in Southern Nevada since four-time state champion Abby Miller graduated from Green Valley in 2000. Gorczyca has been running faster times than when she won state in 2010.

The Bulldogs duo is ranked No. 1 and 2 in the state by athletic.net. And the team is more than just Badger and Gorczyca.

"I don't like putting the focus all on Sydney and Katie, even though they are two of the hardest-working athletes," Centennial coach Roy Session said. "We know it takes five to win and seven to compete, and no team can do it without a strong seven."

At the recent Southwest League Championship, Centennial's Shelby Gibbons, Arden Holden and Gabbie Altmansberger finished third, fourth and 12th, respectively, to help the Bulldogs win with a team score of 22 points. Cimarron-Memorial was second with 59 points.

Arbor View, led by Zanae Jones, and Palo Verde, led by Marissa Suan (third at state in 2011), are favored to join Centennial as the Sunset's three team qualifiers for state. Shadow Ridge is not far behind.

On the boys side in the Sunset, 2011 state runner-up Centennial returns two runners who were in the top five at state a year ago in George Espino and Jackson Carter. Those two, along with newcomer Dajour Braxton, make the Bulldogs a favorite over Shadow Ridge.

Nick Oberdin and David Peters, who turned in the two fastest times at the Northwest League Championship, lead the Mustangs.

Palo Verde is favored to join Centennial and Shadow Ridge at state. The Panthers' top six runners had a time spread of 29 seconds in their runner-up finish to Shadow Ridge at the Northwest League Championship.

In the Sunrise Region, Coronado's girls stand head and shoulders above the rest of the competition. Junior Sara Dort, the defending region champion who hasn't been beaten by a Sunrise runner in two years, leads the Cougars, who are seeking their sixth straight region title.

At the recent Southeast League Championship, Coronado placed all five of its scoring runners in the top seven.

Green Valley and Foothill easily should qualify their girls teams for state. The Gators have a solid quartet of runners behind Lindy Eskin, while Foothill has a solid top six, led by Ryanne Baily and Alyse Vanek.

The race for state among Sunrise boys teams mirrors their female counterparts with Liberty added to the mix.

Alan Ekanger leads Coronado, the Sunrise front-runner for most of the season. Green Valley dominated the Northeast League meet, placing five runners in the top six with a time spread of less than 24 seconds.

The third spot at state likely will come down to Foothill or Liberty, each of which scored 68 points in the Southeast League race.