RENO -- Shanna Sparks ran faster than she ever had before at Rancho San Rafael Park. It just wasn't good enough to win the race, as the Carson High School senior had to settle for second-place at the Northern 4A Cross Country Championships on Friday afternoon.
Sparks turned a fast time of 19 minutes, 22 seconds over the hill-lined 5,000-meter course -- 34 seconds faster than the previous course record -- to finish as the regional runner-up behind Reno's Collier Lawrence for the second straight year. Her effort also helped Carson's girls finish second as a team and qualify for the NIAA/U.S. Bank State Championships this coming Saturday at Veteran's Memorial Park in Boulder City.
Reno placed five runners in the top eight to capture the girls team championship with 24 points, while Carson edged Galena for second-place by a 66-76 margin.
"Shanna ran well. She felt she had a chance to win and she still has one more shot and that's the big one anyway," Carson coach Todd Ackerman said, referring to the state meet.
Lawrence defended her title with a sterling 18:57 effort that easily surpassed the course record of 19:56 she set last year. The Reno junior surged to the front from the start, but Sparks remained in hot pursuit until a long uphill stretch inside the final 800 meters.
Sparks was the regional champion in 1999 and 2000, but her time at Rancho San Rafael Park on Friday was a personal record by 17 seconds.
"She got me on that hill," Sparks said of Lawrence. "I can do better. I had too much left at the end, but that just gives me more incentive for next week."
The Senators received some other strong performances to earn their team ticket to state. Sheena Bonaldi was ninth (20:51), Tiffany Halen 13th (21:43), Patty Capistrant 15th (21:52) and Janine Stone 26th (22:32) to round out the team scoring. Amanda Benson also ran 22:33 and Kristin Neddenriep 22:49 for the Senators.
The group as a whole pulled together to compensate for the loss of freshman standout Annie Brinson, who is out with a broken arm.
"Our girls all ran well. They pulled out second, and with the injury, that was good," Ackerman said. "Patty Capistrant really stepped up and ran well and Tiffany Halen ran well. This was their best race and they did it at the right time."
Meanwhile, Galena's boys came up with a big-time performance to outduel Reno, 36-41, and capture the school's first regional cross country team title. The Grizzlies were state champions last year, but finished second behind Reno at the regional.
"The boys were on a mission," Galena coach Domingo Tibaduiza said. "They ran as well as we could have anticipated. We've had some tough times with illnesses and stuff (in recent weeks), but they came back and today they were healthy and excited, and they did it."
Reno's Jonathan Cardenas won the race in a course record time of 16:39, while Galena occupied the next three places. Stephen Pottey was second (16:47), Geoff Cassazza third (17:10) and James Micah Parker fourth (17:24). Raul Tibaduiza finished 13th (18:08) and Chase Correia clinched the team victory for the Grizzlies when he rallied past a Reno runner on the homestretch to finish 14th (18:09).
Carson finished fifth as a team and senior Josh Corder earned an individual ticket to state when he finished eighth (17:55). The top five finishers from non-qualifying teams qualified for state.
Douglas had two individuals qualify for the state meet: Taryn Joyce-Mendive finished 10th (21:02) and Monica Buccambuso 11th (21:21). Both are seniors. Freshman Elliott McPeek narrowly missed a state berth for the Tigers as he finished 18th (18:18), just two seconds behind Elko's A.J. Coleman in the race for the final individual qualifying spot.
Six Carson Country runners earned individual qualifying berths to state in the boys and girls 3A competition. Dayton had three qualifiers in the girls race: Keeli Garcia (25:19), Christie Selmi (26:19) and freshman Mercedes Barajas (26:23). Fernley's Josh Whitman (19:07) qualified in the boys race, as did Dayton's Billy Mountjoy (19:17) and Joseph Barajas (19:21).