Column: Carson runners in a strong state of mind

It's not like the Carson cross country program hasn't had its share of success over the years.

But after an impressive start to this season, the Carson girls cross country team looks to have a chance to make it a special year. Carson has arguably established itself as the team to beat in Northern Nevada.

Also in the back of the runners' minds on the Carson girls team is a possible run at Green Valley and the state title when the state championships are held later this season in Boulder City.

Coach Jason Macy said he's cautiously optimistic about the team's prospects this season.

"We're going for a zone championship, definitely," said Macy about the Northern Nevada title. "I think we're still on the upswing, definitely. I think they haven't even reached their potential, yet."

But Macy also knows his team must stay injury and illness free. "It's one of those things where it's early in the season," Macy said. "We've got to stay grounded."

But the bar has been raised higher this season in the team's first two meets. Running without its No. 1 runner, Shanna Sparks, Carson beat perennial power Reno to win the Reed Invitational.

"It was just a confidence boost for all of us," said Megan Zahnter about winning the Reed meet without Sparks. "Knowing that we can do it without our No. 1 runner means we'll be even stronger with her."

Just as impressive was the performance in Carson's next meet in which the Senators beat Reno again without their No. 2 runner, Cassia Roth, who placed third at the Reed meet.

There's no arguement that Sparks is Northern Nevada's top runner. She should mae a run at the state title after finishing second last year as a freshman. She also won the state title in the 1,600 meters and placed second in the 800 at last year's state track championships. "She's obviously the runner to beat in Northern Nevada," Macy said.

Sparks turned in an impressive effort at a meet in Grass Valley, Cal., finishing the 3.1 mile course at altitude in 19 minutes, three seconds. She will compete in a prestigious meet that features some of the nation's top runners this weekend in North Carolina.

On the boys side, Macy said Daryl Nourse has a shot at the Northern Nevada and state titles.

Carson's girls should be strong for years to come. As a senior, Amy Martin provides the leadership. Martin, though, said she needs to provide little leadership for Carson's young team.

Other key runners are Sarah Shaw (sophomore), Zahnter (junior), Roth (freshman) and Lindsay Dorio (freshman)

"I don't have to keep them in line," Martin said. " They do it themselves. They work hard."

Martin said there have been two keys to this season's sucess, saying the team is "a lot closer than before. I think we've really grown."

She also credits the team's spiritual growth for this year's success. "I think we've really brought God into the picture this year," Martin said.

In addition, Carson is winning the right way. With a team grade point average of about 3.8, the girls team is on track to win its fifth straight Northern Nevada academic award. Martin, Lindsay Dorio, Janine Stone and Candace Bean all have 4.0 G.P.A.s.

As far as the state meet is concerned, the top five runners will have there places scored, but Carson will compete with seven runners. It's important that the seven runners place as high as possible because in effect that takes points away from other teams. "We want to run aggressively," co-coach Michael Longorio said.

"One of our goals is to perform as well at zone if not better," said Macy about the state meet.

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