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Centennial boys aiming to retain title

The biennial trip to Reno hasn’t been kind to Southern Nevada Class 4A cross country teams in the past decade.

Centennial’s boys, though, might be ready to break the spell Saturday.

The defending state champions, led by Sunset Region champion Nick Hartle, are hoping to make it two straight and become the first boys team to win a large-school state title in a meet held in the North since Basic in 1987.

The boys will race on a 3.1-mile course at Reno’s Rancho San Rafael Park at 1:45 p.m. Saturday. The Class 2A girls race begins the day at 10 a.m.

Like most other sports, cross country state championships alternate between North and South sites, with the North hosting the meet in odd-numbered years.

No Southern Nevada team has won a Class 4A title in the North since Green Valley’s girls in 1999. Individuals from the Sunrise and Sunset regions have not done much better, having not won up North since 1999 (Cory Jeffers from Bonanza) and 2001 (Christa Avena from Bishop Gorman).

Hartle, who finished seventh individually at state last year, could change that. Backing him will be a solid quintet of senior Devon Dane, sophomore Billy Gravley, senior Scott Albright, and juniors Kyle Merritt and Bryce Fessler. All five were in the top 13 at the Sunset Region meet this year. Dane, Gravley, and Albright were on the championship team last fall.

Based on comparable times over the same course at the two southern regionals, Centennial would appear to represent the South’s best hope of beating Carson, Galena and Reno, the Northern Region’s top three qualifiers.

Sunrise Region champion Green Valley also could make waves. Its chances of a high finish at state likely will hinge on the success of senior Julius Kim and his four senior teammates: D.J. Padilla-Montello, Matt Campa-Moreno, Jason Ferraro and Cagen Combs. Kim won the Sunrise Region meet, and Padilla-Montello and Campa-Moreno also finished in the top five.

Hartle and Kim had the two fastest times at the regional meets, but they face an uphill task in the battle for the state 4A individual title.

Carson’s Richard Shroy, Galena’s Bryan Jordan and Elko’s Eric Sandall finished one-two-three at the Northern Region meet, and Shroy and Sandall bested Hartle at state last year.

In the girls Class 4A meet, Shadow Ridge, Arbor View, Coronado and Green Valley will have their work cut out for them if they hope to challenge South Tahoe, the Northern Region champion.

Seniors Elaina Vlassopoulos and Michelle Schenck, who went one-two at the Sunset Region meet, lead Shadow Ridge.

Arbor View, runner-up in Sunset, could be a sleeper. The Aggies are young but talented, led by junior Kourtney Willey and freshmen Amberly Halstead and Randi Withoft. All three finished in the top 10 at the Sunset Region meet.

Coronado, the Sunrise Region winner and state runner-up in 2008, was hit hard by the swine flu all season, and several key runners still are not fully recovered.

Senior Lauren Lucas, the Sunrise champion, and junior Kristal Hosaka, who was fourth at the regional, lead Coronado.

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