Cross Country Cup: One more for the road
For Shanna Sparks, the sixth annual Cross Country Cup on Saturday was an opportunity to run her old course one more time before hitting the road to the University of Colorado.
But with all due respect, the recent Carson High graduate doesn’t expect to miss that hilly and sandy trail up behind Western Nevada Community College. At least not any time in the near future.
“I hate that course,” Sparks said, laughing. “Oh, my gosh, I’ve run it so many times. It’s near my house, so that’s where I’ve always done my hill workouts.”
Oh, by the way, Sparks shifted into cruise control and finished as the first woman and fifth overall in the Cross Country Cup 5K race with a time of 21 minutes, 52 seconds.
A total of 74 runners and walkers turned out for the event, which served as a fund-raiser for the Sierra Flyers youth running club in Carson City and for the Carson High School cross country program.
Lupe Cabada of Winnemucca, a top-10 finisher at the 3A state cross country meet for Lowry High School each of the last two years, was the overall 5K winner in a time of 19:39. Douglas High’s Daniel Sipko was second in 20:37.
Brett Long was the overall 10K winner and course record setter for the second year in a row with a time of 39:09. Long ran 56 seconds faster than his winning time for the double-loop course last year, yet the 25-year-old Carson City man hesitated when asked whether he’s more fit now.
“That’s a relative term,” he said with a chuckle. “I work out a little bit. I’m a manufacturing engineer for Polyphaser in Minden; the full-time job curtails my training, but I like to think I’m maintaining.”
Maintaining enough that he plans to run the Hood to Coast Relay race later this month in Oregon. Long also finished 14th overall in a field of 2,000-plus at the high-powered Butte to Butte 10K road race in Eugene, Ore., where he ran 34:31 on July 4. He was the 1995 4A state cross country runner-up for Hug High and later ran to 10 conference titles and NAIA All-America recognition at Oregon Tech.
Competing on the WNCC course brought back some old memories.
“I don’t know what everybody else thinks, but in my opinion, that’s a tough course,” Long said. “The way the terrain is, with the hills and all, I would compare it to the Prison Hill course (in Carson City) where I ran in high school.”
Allen Wagner, 22, of South Lake Tahoe was a close second in 39:31 and Ross McMahon of Incline Village was third in 41:37.
“I came around the first loop, I looked over my shoulder and saw Allen and I was hoping he was just running the 5K,” Long said. “When I saw him make the turn, I was saying to myself, ‘I don’t know if I can do this.'”
Diane Armstrong of Carson City, who designed the Cross Country Cup T-shirts, was the first woman in a time of 1:01:29.
For Sparks, Saturday’s race was a good tune-up for the time trial she is scheduled to run Aug. 30 in Boulder, where she will try to earn a spot on the Colorado women’s roster.
“The top seven make varsity and the top nine make the traveling team and I’m hoping to do that,” said Sparks, who signed a national letter of intent with Colorado in May.
Sparks hopes the injuries and illnesses that plagued her through high school the last four years are all in the past.
“I’m excited and I’m confident right now,” she said. “I’m running about 40 miles a week, which is more than I’ve ever trained in my life and I feel great.”
Carson High sophomore Annie Brinson was the second woman and 13th overall in the 5K race in 24:48 and Rosalina Gould ran 25:44 to finish as the third woman. Kelsey Engstrom, Shanna’s cousin and a three-time 3A state cross country champion at Lowry, was the fourth woman in 25:48. Kelsey’s twin sister, Katie, ran 25:57.