Cougars girls thrive ahead of their time

Coronado's girls still might be pinching themselves.

The Cougars cross country team -- a squad with no seniors and only one junior -- is headed to the state cross country meet.

A surprise regional champion, Coronado is one of eight teams competing in the Class 4A state meet today at Reno. The girls race begins at 11:25 a.m., with the Class 4A boys meet at 1:25 p.m.

"I thought we'd be good, but I didn't think we'd win regionals," Coronado coach Mark Tondryk said. "As the year went on, I got the idea that we had a really good team.

"They're tough, but they're so young, the don't even know how good they are."

The Cougars' top seven runners are junior Michaelanne Laurent, three sophomores and three freshmen.

Laurent was second in the Sunrise Regional meet last week. Sophomore Lauren Lucas took third.

"Michaelanne has been solid for three straight years," Tondryk said. "Lauren has had a really solid year, too."

Laurent was 16th in last year's state meet, in which the Cougars finished eighth out of eight teams. Lucas (49th place) and sophomore Jessica Godfrey (66th) also competed in last year's state meet.

The other four runners -- sophomore Ali Grace-Sterner and freshmen Casey Almeido, Danielle Schumacher and Katelyn Denney -- will be running in their first state meet.

"They're still so young," Tondryk said. "I don't even know how they'll react."

The Cougars placed four runners in the top nine at the regional meet, with the four separated by less than a minute.

"We need to get our fifth runner up a little bit," Tondryk said. "If we can do that, we have a chance to make something happen.

"What's really good is that they're all coming back next year."

Sunset Regional champion Centennial joins Coronado, Palo Verde and Foothill in the field.

Foothill junior Leah Leedy is a state championship contender after placing third last year.

In the boys meet, Sunset champion Centennial, Sunrise champion Foothill and runners-up Shadow Ridge and Silverado will compete. Centennial sophomore Nathan Williams was the state runner-up last year.