Now that the preliminaries are all over, the gun for the Northern 4A and 3A Regional Cross Country Championships is ready to go off. And predictably, nothing is going to be predictable about the meet today in Reno.
"I've seen a lot of strange things happen when cross country meets are held this time of year," Douglas High School coach Keith Cole said. "You never know what's going to happen until that gun goes off."
Competition in the combined meet starts at 2:30 p.m. at Rancho San Rafael Park. The 3A girls run at 2:30 p.m., followed by the 4A girls at 3, the 3A boys at 3:30 and the 4A boys at 4.
Runners in both divisions will be looking to extend their season by one more week. In the 4A races, three teams and five individuals from non-qualifying teams in both the varsity boys and girls races advance to the NIAA/U.S. State Championships next week in Henderson. In the 3A, the top four teams and five individuals from non-qualifying teams advance to state.
Carson's girls will be hard-pressed to repeat their 4A regional and state titles of a year ago, largely due to the strength of the Reno Huskies and partly because the Senators are at less than 100 percent. The Senators still expect to contend for a top-three finish.
"The girls have been running very strong in their workouts. I am proud of how much they have come up since the beginning of the year," said girls coach Penny Sparks. "But Reno has been so dominant this year. Their top four are awesome right now."
The race for individual gold shapes up as another duel between Carson senior Shanna Sparks and Reno junior Collier Lawrence. Last year, Lawrence came from behind to beat Sparks by four seconds in a time of 19 minutes, 56 seconds at Ranb.
Sparks, the 2000 regional champion, was slowed by a bout with illness at midseason but has regained her strength for the home stretch.
"I think Shanna and Collier will give all of us a great race," Penny Sparks said. "I think they have a great chance of breaking the course record."
The Senators will be without freshman Annie Brinson, who suffered a broken arm two weeks ago. The injury hurts because Brinson has been the team's No. 3 runner most of the season.
"Annie had surgery on her elbow Wednesday (Oct. 23)," Penny Sparks said. "They placed a pin in her elbow so she's not going to be able to run for a while."
The Senators will go with a lineup that includes sophomore Sheena Bonaldi, freshman Tiffany Halen, junior Janine Stone, freshman Kristin Neddenriep, sophomore Patty Capistrant and sophomore Amanda Benson.
Galena will contend for a trip to state with a group led by sophomore Chantel Williams, third at last year's meet. Douglas is led by two seniors: Taryn Joyce-Mendive, a two-time state qualifier and seventh at last year's regional, and Monica Buccambuso.
"I expect Taryn and Monica to both be up there and qualify for state," Cole said. "We're excited to see what happens. It's the last meet of the season and we're all excited to go out and roll and roll."
The Carson and Douglas boys squads also figure to be part of a pack chasing the front-running teams: Galena, Reno and South Tahoe. Galena and Reno have gone back and forth all season. Galena was a convincing winner at the Carson Invitational on Oct. 4. More recently, Reno edged Galena for top honors at the Bella Vista Invitational held at Sierra College in Rocklin, Calif.
Reno is led by junior Jonathan Cardenas, who was the top Nevada finisher at the prestigious Mt. San Antonio College Invitational in Southern California, where he blazed to a time of 15:04 over the 5-kilometer course.
Galena is led by a close-knit pack that includes Stephen Pottey, Geoff Casazza and Micah Parker, Raul Tibaduiza and Chase Correia. Reno is the defending regional champion and Galena is the defending state champion.