Striders win, Sparks third

RENO - Carson City Christian used a solid pack of five runners to secure the youth girls division team championship at the USA Track and Field Junior Olympic Cross Country Championships in Reno on Saturday afternoon.

All five cracked the top 30 in a race that had 219 entries and all five finished with 66 seconds of each other as Carson City Christian outdistanced the Sacramento-based Buffalo Chips by a 56-86 margin to win the youth girls (13- and 14-year-olds) team title on a cool, calm and overcast day at Rancho San Rafael Park.

Shanna Sparks, a sophomore at Carson High School, placed third in a quality intermediate girls (15-16) division race to supply another local highlight. Dan Wolf of the Silver State Striders and Reno High School won the young men's (17-18) age group race in a record time of 16 minutes, 30.2 seconds over Rancho San Rafael Park's hill-lined 5,000-meter course.

The top 25 finishers in each race received Junior Olympic All-American honors. The meet had a total of 2,463 entries from around the U.S.

Carson's youth girls team triumph was aided by runners from Winnemucca, South Lake Tahoe as well as Carson. Kelsey Engstrom, Nevada's 3A prep state champion from Lowry High, finished second in a time of 15:43 over 4,000 meters, 23 seconds behind Caitlin Chock of the Buffalo Chips (a freshman at Granite Bay High School). Amber Ramos finished ninth (16:11), Sheena Bonaldi 23rd (16:38), Katie Engstrom 25th (16:42, after passing two runners in the final 10 meters to grab the All-American spot) and Anne Brinson finished 30th (16:49) to round out Carson's team scoring.

The intermediate girls race was won by Amber Harper of Orem, Utah, with a 19:32.2 clocking that was fastest of the day among the girls and set a course record. Harper, who won the Utah 5A state title for Orem High as a sophomore this fall.

Sparks ran near the front of the 5,000-meter intermediate girls race from the start. At the two-mile mark, she took the lead on a downhill stretch, only to have Harper surge out front on the ensuing uphill. Sparks finished in a personal best time of 19:54 for the course.

In the bantam girls (10-and-under) race, Samantha Bechtle of Carson City and the Silver State Striders earned Junior Olympic All-American recognition with her 14th-place run of 12:59 over the 3,000-meter course.

In the young men's race, Brett Ferrier of Winnemucca and the Carson Christian club, ran 17:00 for 5,000 meters to place fifth, while Chad Sanada and Daryl Nourse finished 14th and 24th with respective times of 17:27 and 17:40. Sanada is a senior at Galena High and Nourse a senior at Carson High.

Abigail Parker, a Galena High senior who runs for the Silver State Striders, placed 18th in the young women's race with a 21:36 effort.

Joseph Parker placed fifth in the 4,000-meter youth boys race to help the Silver State Striders finish second in the team race - by a narrow 88-93 margin behind California's Valley Striders. Stephen Pottey also finished 25th for the Striders (14:53). The race was won by Patrick Swick of Las Vegas in 13:49.8.

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