‘Just happy to be out here’: Nevada Union cross-country completes COVID-adjusted season on high note
It was a season no one was sure would happen. When it did, the Miners were ready and they put their best foot forward.
“In December, I was questioning if anyone would even wear a jersey this school year,” said Nevada Union cross-country head Coach Kevin Selby.
Selby’s concerns were quelled in January when a handful of outdoor, low-contact high school sports got the green light to start up again. His team was ready and they hit the ground running.
“I didn’t have much faith there was going to be a season,” said Nevada Union senior Jake Slade. “You got to give it up for Coach Selby. He put together a lot for the team, he organized everything for us, he never gave up on us, and I almost think he wanted it more than us, just to see us out there.”
Nevada Union started racing in late January and closed out a five-race cross-country season Saturday with a Foothill Valley League meet at Railhead Park in Auburn, becoming the first sport to start and finish a season since the return of high school athletics in the Sac-Joaquin Section.
“It’s really been amazing to see something come together like this,” said Slade. “Especially during such a harsh time.”
The Miners wrapped the season in style with several runners earning top-10 individual finishes and the boys’ squad taking first place as a team.
Selby said the team’s success is due to its ability to adapt and persevere.
“In December, we shifted our focus to track because it didn’t look like cross-country was going to happen, so we started 2021 with a focus on track,” he said. “Then, in January, the cross-country season came about and we had to shift to get ready for this course. But the team was adaptable and just about ready for anything.”
That was apparent on Saturday as the Miners impressed on the course. Leading the way was Slade, who wrapped his senior cross-country campaign at the front of the pack, winning the boys varsity race. The talented distance runner completed the 3-mile course in 16 minutes, 37.9 seconds, finishing just ahead of teammate Travis Selby (16:41.61) who took second place.
“It feels really good,” Slade said of his victory. “I’m really thankful to my teammates for helping me get to where I need to be. Our team’s overcome a lot of injuries recently, we’ve been battling that, but the whole team really clicked today, persevered and did really well.”
For the season, Slade earned three first place finishes and took second at another meet. Travis Selby tallied four top-three finishes, including a first place finish at the first contest of the season, the Nevada Union Cross Country Invitational, on Jan. 30.
“Those guys are seniors, they have the experience and they’re expected to run at the front,” said Kevin Selby.
In addition to Slade and Travis Selby, the NU boys squad also got strong showings on Saturday from sophomore Wesley Selby (17:16.93,) who placed fifth, junior Max Wright (18:00.9) who took seventh, and junior T.J. Parnow (19:07.02) who crossed the finish line in 11th.
“We were able to get five (races) in, and we really just made the best out of the situation,” said Travis Selby, who plans to run cross-country at Chico State in the future. “Our coaches worked really hard, and the coaches in the league worked really hard to make this happen, and I’m really appreciative of that.
“It’s a blessing to be working with Jake Slade, my brother (Wesley Selby), T.J. Parnow, Max Wright and the rest of the team. It’s a blessing and no matter what the finish is, whether it’s good or bad, I’m just happy to be out here.”
In Saturday’s girls varsity race, the Miners were led by freshman Jessie Slade, who placed eighth overall with a time of 21:57.63.
“Last year, I was in eighth grade and everything got shutdown — basketball, volleyball,” said Jessie Slade. “Then cross-country opened up and it was like ‘Oh, my gosh, I can actually do something.’”
The impressive freshman was quick to credit her coaches and teammates for her success.
“I have the best team,” she said. “It’s not just how they compete, but it’s their character and how they work together. And, my brother (Jake Slade) was always there helping me and pushing me.”
Also faring well for NU girls squad on Saturday was Megan Schreck (22:43.32) who took 11th, and Autumn Legge (24:16.55) who placed 15th.
Schreck pieced together a solid season overall, notching two top-fives and never finishing worse than 11th.
Several Miners earned all-league honors for their efforts throughout the shortened season, including Schreck, Jessie Slade, Jake Slade, Travis Selby and Wesley Selby.
Leading the effort for NU at the junior varsity level was sophomore Ben Brott, who placed first in the boys race, and freshman Delaney Sherr, who earned fourth in the girls contest.
“The takeaway is: you can’t have this type of season without resiliency,” said Kevin Selby. “The team has been resilient. They’ve adjusted to every demand, and the fact is the most resilient came out on top.”
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, email email@example.com.
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