In cross country, it's not where you start the counts. It's where you finish.
With that goal in mind, Carson High School coach Todd Ackerman was in an upbeat mood after watching the Senators run to second-place behind South Tahoe in both the boys and girls races during a Northern 4A three-way meet at Edmonds Sports Complex on Friday.
"I'm happy with the way the kids ran today," Ackerman said. "We had a tough workout Wednesday and the kids were probably still a little tired, but we need to train through some of these meets. If we don't, we're not going to get any better, and that's the whole objective.
"We're gearing for the end of October, not the end of September," he added, referring to the Northern 4A Regionals on Oct. 31 at Rancho San Rafael Park.
South Tahoe's girls slipped past Carson by a 25-31 score on Friday, while the Vikings won the boys meet by a 21-39 score over Carson in a dual between teams that are perennial front runners in the North.
Carson's girls were state champions in 2001 and finished second at the regional meet in 2002. South Tahoe was fourth last year, one spot short of qualifying for the state meet.
"We tried so hard last year and we could never beat Carson City," South Tahoe coach Doug Watenpool said. "They're always strong, so it was great to win today.
"It was an exciting race to start the year," he added. "The five girls in the lead pack all went back and forth."
South Tahoe freshman Kelsey McClurg finished strong to win the race in a time of 22 minutes, 31 seconds over the 5-kilometer (3.1 miles) double loop course around Edmonds Complex. Sophomore teammate Meg Hillyard was a step behind in second-place, timed at 22:32. Freshman Kimmie Arroues placed fifth and Anna Lambdin sixth to give South Tahoe four of the top six spots.
Carson's Janine Stone and Annie Brinson, the early leaders in the race, finished third and fourth with respective times of 22:44 and 22:55. The Senators had six runners crack the top 10, with 36 seconds separating Kristin Neddenriep, Patty Capistrant, Amanda Benson and Megan Myer in seventh through 10th.
The Vikings also grabbed top individual honors in the boys race, as juniors Bryan Kurek and Alex Sharp swept the first two places. Kurek, who had battled illness all week, ran 18:35 and Sharp was second in 18:49.
Ryan Turner led Carson with a third-place effort of 19:37 on a course that was flat, but not particularly fast running on the grass surface of the Edmonds soccer fields.
"Ryan's no surprise," Ackerman said of Turner. "He's not the fastest guy, he just grinds things out and he always competes well."
South Tahoe's Steven Grant placed fourth in 19:41. Carson's Doug Holderman was fifth in 19:53 and freshman Chad Shroy seventh in 20:09. Shelby Mouldin also finished 10th for the Senators.
Like Ackerman, South Tahoe coach Dominique Westlake is preparing his team for the end of October.
"We've got a young team, so I'm going to bring them along slow," Westlake said. "I don't want to burn them out with hard workouts now. I want them to slowly progress as the season goes on and have them ready for regionals."
The Senators and Vikings will see each other again Wednesday at the Reed Invitational in Sparks. Carson will hold its annual 24-hour run fund-raiser Friday and Saturday at the high school track.
The Douglas boys edged Elko to win their second straight meet of the young season and the girls posted their first victory Friday in a meet hosted by Hug at Sun Valley Elementary School.
Douglas won the boys meet by a 29-31 score over Elko as Senior Daniel Sipko placed third with a time of 17:59 over the 3.1-mile course. Junior Mike Freeman was fourth in 18:25 and Kevin Carlson fifth in 19:04 for the Tigers.
The Tigers won the girls race 21-34 as Rosalind Gould ran 23:03 and Harmony Bennington 23:20 to sweep the top two places.
"We were very excited," Douglas coach Keith Cole said. "Anytime we can walk away with a win in both the girls and boys races, that's huge."