The Carson High boys and girls cross country teams set a high bar for its program " and the entire school " last year.
"We had a pretty good year last year," Carson coach Pete Sinnott said in an understatement.
After both boys and girls teams finished third at the Northern 4A Championships, the two squads put it together at the NIAA 4A State Championships with the girls winning the state title and the boys taking second at state.
And even though both teams lost key runners from last year's squads, both clubs are looking to make a run at the state title this year. But it won't be easy.
Before the boys and girls can even think about advancing to zone " let alone a state title " they must first advance past the league meet. This year only the top two teams in each Northern league will advance to the zone meet.
With the league realignment, Reno High is no longer in Carson's league, but Galena is now in the same league with the Senators.
Last year, Carson's girls finished behind Reno and South Tahoe " traditionally two of the West's top teams " but came back to beat both teams at state. At state last year, the Senator boys finished behind Galena, which finished ranked fifth in the nation.
So Galena and Carson are the favorites in the boys to advance from their league to zone, but South Tahoe also can't be counted out. In the girls, South Tahoe and Carson figure to be the favorites, but again Douglas and Galena can't be counted out.
"All the teams are in the same boat that we are," Sinnott said. "That's fair. We have to be ready for the league meet."
Among the key losses for Carson's boys and girls are Ethan Graber, Caleb Carter, Gloria Sosa and Christy Works. Carter plans to compete in cross country and track at Iowa Western Community College and Sosa and Works will run at the University of Nevada.
"We lost some really good kids from last year," Sinnott said. "(But) we have a core group of boys and girls who are very strong."
Carson does return its top two runners from last year in Richard Shroy, who took second at state last year, and Yvonne Hollett, who was fourth at state. Shroy again will try to chase down defending state champion Bryan Tibaduiza of Galena.
Galena has Tibaduiza back, but was hit hard by graduation. Sinnott said he would consider his team and Galena as co-favorites in league. But he noted Galena also has a strong group of runners coming up.
Other top runners for Carson are Zach Mapes, David McMasters, Logan Philippi, Nick Schlager, Brandon Bournacorsi, Brent Moyle, Evan Richards and Josh VanSickle. Many of those runners are moving up from last year's junior varsity team that won the Northern 4A title. "We've got a pretty strong boys team, a lot of potential," Sinnott said.
Among the top girls returning are Jenny Mital, Amanda Gordon and Haley Ward. While Carson loses Gloria Sosa, two more outstanding runners will join the Senators in Erica and Laura Sosa. In addition, there will be another outstanding runner joining the team in Chelsea Gordon.
Carson again will have a tough schedule, running at the Stanford and Clovis Invitationals in California. In addition, the Senators will host league meets at Washoe Lake State Park, where they have the chance to run through the water and sand.
"They've worked very hard this summer. I think they're going to raise the bar high for themselves. We'll be pushing everybody," said Sinnott about the boys and girls teams at the league, zone and state level. "I think we'll be in good contention."
Sinnott also said he expects what his program accomplished last year to set a high bar not just for his program, but all the school's athletic programs. "Last year I think we set a pretty high standard for the whole school," he said.