PREP CROSS COUNTRY: Nevada Union, Bear River distance runners set to compete at state championships | TheUnion.com

PREP CROSS COUNTRY: Nevada Union, Bear River distance runners set to compete at state championships

Through its 50-plus year history the Nevada Union cross country program has developed a tradition of success, sending runners to the CIF State Championship Meet on a yearly basis.

"Cross country at Nevada Union has always been a tradition," said Nevada Union coach Angie Marino. "It's not a sport, it's a tradition. We're known for cross country and we should go (to the state championship meet). Cross country at Nevada Union has always been awesome and the kids come into it knowing there is a standard."

This year is no different and the standard has been met as Nevada Union will be sending its top-seven varsity girls and boys runner Garrett Gough to compete with the best in California at Saturday's State Championships held at Woodward Park in Fresno.

"It's so exciting," said NU senior Anya Cooper-Hynell, who finished in seventh place individually at the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-III meet. "Just getting there is a huge accomplishment."

As a team, the NU girls finished in third at the section meet to punch their ticket to the state championships.

"They all stepped up," Cooper-Hynell said of her teammates. "It makes it more special."

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Cooper Hynell will be joined at the sport's pinnacle event by senior Claire Berman, senior Sophia Lehmer, junior Sheriane Greene, junior Selah-Marie Grogan, freshmen Mackenzie Morgan and freshmen Sephora Wontor.

"I think it's awesome that the girls get to experience this together," said Greene, who was 16th at the section race. "It shows that our training is paying off, and what we're doing is making us better."

This is the first time since 2003 Nevada Union has sent an entire girls varsity team to the state meet.

"They are very dedicated, super determined and they work really hard," Marino said. "They're obviously talented and the last two years we had a good shot to make it and we fell short. There's three seniors on this team that really wanted it, so it's good to see them make it this year."

Marino was also quick to give credit for the team's success to fellow coach Sara Freitas, who writes the workouts and is a wealth of knowledge. Marino called Freitas the "backbone" of the program.

NU's lone competitor in the boys race will be Gough, who has impressed all season long with multiple race wins. The junior won the Sac-Joaquin Section D-III race with a 5K time of 16 minutes, 5.6 seconds which was 24.7 seconds faster than the second place finisher.

Gough, who ran cross country for fun in middle school, said it wasn't until his freshmen year at NU that he realized how good he could be.

"I figured I could go really far with this and if I train hard I could do well," he said. "I was just motivated to go for it."

As for his goals at the upcoming state meet, Gough said he just wants to run the best that he can.

Marino said she is proud of this group, and wants them to have fun with the experience.

"I just want them to enjoy it," she said. "They made it and getting there is the hardest part. Once they're there they just have to run smart. Kids tend to go out too fast, because it's so exciting. It's the state meet and they just take off. So if they can run smart and hold back that first mile, they're going to run well. But, I just want them to enjoy it."

Bear River will also have a representative in the state meet in senior Camden Criesco. The talented harrier earned an at-large bid to the state meet after placing 10th overall in the section's D-IV boys varsity race. Criesco also took eighth at the sunsection meet and was fourth at the Pioneer Valley League Championships this season.

"Camden has been running strong," Bear River coach Kevin Vasquez said after the subsection race. "He's just one of those kids who puts in such hard work every single day at practice, that the sky can be the limit for him."

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email wford@theunion.com.

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