SPARKS — Rheanna Fallini-Jackson may have run the best race of her Carson High School cross country career on Saturday when she placed fifth in the 4A girls race at the NIAA State Championships.
Then again, she had high expectations and plenty of motivation for her senior season even before it began.
“All I did over the summer was run on our family ranch,” she said, referring to the Fallini family’s Twin Springs Ranch cattle operation in central Nevada. “I felt really good the last 400 today — it was great to see all that work pay off.”
Fallini-Jackson ran the 5,000-meter course at Shadow Mountain Sports Complex in 20:24, an improvement of 31 seconds from her previous best on the course set one week before when she placed seventh at the region meet.
“She went from seventh in the North last week to fifth at state today; I’m real happy about that,” Carson coach Pete Sinnott said.
“All year, she has been really motivated and focused; she worked hard and she ran with lots of confidence. She wasn’t in races just to run, she was in races to compete and go for the top spot, and she ran the best race of her high school career at this meet today.”
Fallini-Jackson followed a scripted race plan to perfection when she passed the midway mark of the race in 9 minutes, only a few strides behind the lead pack of six runners. She maintained that position and finally moved up to fifth-place in the final 400 meters.
“My goal was top seven,” she said. “I wanted to stay behind the lead pack and then push it as hard as I could at the end.”
Spanish Springs senior Alexis Melendrez logged a time of 19:41 to win a race that saw Northern runners sweep the top three spots and six of the top seven.
Las Vegas Centennial packed five runners into the top 30 to win the team title with 53 points, followed by Damonte Ranch in second-place with 70 points.
Fallini-Jackson was exactly two minutes faster than the time she ran in 2016 to finish 34th at the region meet on the Shadow Mountain course. She had a breakthrough race this season on Oct. 7 at the Clovis Invitational in Fresno, Calif., where she ran 19:13.
“That’s the fourth fastest time (among Carson girls for 5K) since I’ve been here,” Sinnott said.
Oh, and by the way, Saturday was a family affair. Rheanna’s cousin, Spring Creek senior William Fallini-Haas, won the 3A boys state gold medal in a time of 16:39 that was the fastest of the day among runners in all three divisions.
And Joe Fallini, who lives at Twin Springs Ranch in Nye County (east of Tonopah) was on hand Saturday to watch his grandchildren run at the state meet. The elder Fallini was a state champion miler on the track for Tonopah High School — “That was a helluva long time ago.”
After the races on Saturday, he proudly displayed the cap autographed by William and Rheanna, who are fifth generation Nevada ranchers, dating to Giovanni Fallini’s arrival in the 1860s.
For Fallini-Jackson, it was a fitting way to finish her final cross country race for Carson.
“Rheanna had a great year,” Sinnott said.
“She went from being part of the team last year to being the leader and captain of our team. She had a plan and a program. She knew what she needed to do to be successful.”