When Tommy Thomson helmed the Greenwave football program in the 1990s, he didn’t fully understand the cross country.
Sure, all they did was run from one end of the town to the other, go up a couple hills and then do it all over again the next day.
But after taking over for Mitch Overlie this season, the sport has opened the longtime Fallon coach’s eyes greatly.
“It makes you appreciate what you’ve got. Honestly, it made me appreciate the sport a whole lot more,” said Thomson, who coached the girls tennis team last decade and helps with basketball. “Although it’s a hard sport for them competitively, it’s a fun sport for me to watch. It’s kind of like tennis. I enjoyed tennis and got to play all day. Now, it’s kind of fun watching them compete in cross country.”
Thomson inherits a program that continues to rise to the occasion every season.
The Fallon boys qualified for the state meet last year, slipping past Truckee by one point to nab the third spot from the North. The Greenwave, though, lost two senior leaders but this year’s squad is young and experienced thanks to last year’s success.
“I feel like our team this year is real young,” returning junior Tristen Thomson said. “We have some juniors and seniors who are going to step up this year. Both teams will have a good shot at making state. I feel like we have a lot of potential this year.”
Along with Thomson returning, seniors Blane Merkley and Cameron Kissick are back as well as juniors Marco Guerrero and Michael Anderson. Returning sophomores are Ethan Smith and Terry White.
Also on the team are senior Miguel Lebron, junior Mo Coverston, sophomores John Kirkland, Kendall Rodgers, Nick Smith and David Springfield, and freshmen Colton Coverston and Devyn Federicks.
“It looks like we got a good shot, possibly, at getting back to state. That what’s we’re aiming for,” coach Thomson said.
Watching his son compete during the last two seasons helped Thomson understand the sport better and make the adjustment to coaching easier. He wasn’t aware of the strategy involved, especially when it comes down to getting that final team spot for state.
“It’s changed my mind. I didn’t realize how much strategy it was,” he said. “Like coach Overlie has taught me, when you go against these teams, it’s Spring Creek’s No. 3 versus your No. 3 and Truckee’s No. 4 versus your No. 4. You’re trying to size up for regional. We won it last year by one point. It was our No. 5 coming in and scoring against Truckee’s No. 5 by one point. Our teams were just a little bit ahead. It could have gone the other way easily.”
It’s also not uncommon to have parents coaching their own children at Fallon with Overlie coaching his son last year in cross country and Phil Pinder coaching his daughters in softball recently. Thomson, though, learned from his son and it’s making him a better coach.
“It’s been kind of fun for me because Tristen has taught me,” Thomson said. “I’ve watched going to the meets. I’ve seen the strategy and how they really compete. Sometimes cross country gets put on the back burner. These kids are really good athletes. They put in a lot of miles. They’ve kind of educated me as much as I try to help them, also. There are a lot of veterans on these teams.”
The girls team returns several and Thomson’s hopeful that the boys’ success will help with their counterpart.
Returning are juniors Jordyn Rogers and Nichole Mariezcurrena, and sophomores Amanda Pursley and Adia Sommer. Senior Shelby Smith, juniors Sierra Bivens, Diana Martinez and Emily Scott and freshmen Jeanne Anderson, Shelby Hickox and Chloe Overlie round out the team.
“The girls missed on going to state,” Thomson said. “They got fifth last year. Their goals this year are the same.”
Both groups went up to Donner Lake for the second summer in a row where they ran through the mountainous terrain and bonded closer. About half of the team made the journey.
“It was a good team-bonding experience,” Tristen Thomson said. “We ran up mountains and had different runs through trees. It helped us out for hills we’ll see this season.”