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Southern girls try to halt North’s 4A cross country domination

Every other year the Northern Region teams come south for the state cross country championships. More often than not — at least in Class 4A — most of the hardware goes back with them to Reno, Carson City or South Tahoe.

Area cross country teams will attempt to reverse that trend Saturday at Veterans Memorial Park in Boulder City. The first race will begin at 10 a.m.

Since Centennial won the girls title in 2000, no Southern Nevada 4A team has won state. No 4A runner from the South has won an individual title since Chaparral’s Patrick Swick in 2002 at the same site as this year’s event.

The girls 4A meet will match Northern champion Galena and runner-up South Tahoe against Centennial, Shadow Ridge and Arbor View from the Sunset Region as well as Coronado, Foothill, and Green Valley from the Sunrise.

A comparison of times and past performances of the eight teams at various invitationals and regionals indicates Galena and South Tahoe will battle for the first place, with Coronado and Centennial as the most likely Southern challengers.

Times don’t lie. Galena’s five scoring runners averaged 20:56 on the 3.1-mile Northern Regional course. The team is led by sophomore Madison Knight and senior Julie Pederson, who placed sixth and eighth, respectively, at the regional.

South Tahoe counters with a pair of aces, regional champion Kelsey Smith, a junior, and freshman Shelby McIntyre, who was third. South Tahoe’s five scoring runners averaged 20:50 in the regional.

South Tahoe actually had a better average time than Galena at the regional meet, but placed below the Grizzlies because South Tahoe’s fifth runner finished 34th. Each team had four runners in the top 16 at the regional meet, but Galena closed its scoring with a 19th-place finish.

Coronado, the Sunrise champion, averaged 21:26 for its five scoring runners. The Cougars are led by senior Michaelanne Laurent, the Sunrise runner-up in 19:56. She and Foothill senior Leah Leedy have been the top two runners from the South all season.

If Coronado’s supporting cast — junior Lauren Lucas, sophomores Kristal Hosaka and Ally Ruggles, and freshman Samantha Harrison — can stay close to the Nos. 2-5 runners from Reno and South Tahoe, the Cougars have a chance.

Centennial, the Sunset champion, averaged 21:39 for its top five. The Bulldogs have seven solid runners, but lack a true front runner, and they are at a disadvantage in a race with only 56 scoring runners. Centennial’s leading runners are sophomore Brittany Williams and Adrielle Wechsler.

Sunset runner-up Shadow Ridge is led by juniors Elaina Vlassopoulos and Palolo Prince.

Arbor View, third in the Sunset, is keyed by regional runner-up Katie Carrell, a senior. Green Valley, third in the Sunrise, will likely be led by junior Renee Moser.

The girls’ individual co-favorites are Foothill’s Leedy, who is unbeaten in Nevada this year, and defending champion Smith of South Tahoe. Leedy ran 19:15 in the Sunrise meet and Smith’s regional time was 19:20.

“Leedy and Smith will wage a war,” South Tahoe coach Dan Wilvers predicted.

This might be Leedy’s year to win it all. She was third at state on the Boulder City course in 2006, her first year running.

Several girls are running as individual qualifiers and will likely be in the top-10 hunt. They include: Northern Regional runner-up Demerey Kirsch from Reno; Yvonne Hollett from Carson and Rebecca Fisher from North Valleys, who were third and fourth in the North; Taylor Biaggi from Douglas, seventh in the North; Sunset champion Elisa Vazquez from Clark; Kelsi Koch from Palo Verde, fourth in the Sunset; and Heather Hollinger from Canyon Springs, the top individual qualifier from the Sunrise.

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