Miners play host to 50-team running field
When Nevada Union cross country coach Dan King speaks of today’s 40th Annual Nevada Union/Asics Invite, he sounds a little like a kid in a candy store.
Very excited, and oh so many good things from which to choose.
The event, featuring by his estimation 1,100 athletes and by 50 teams, will include some of the top individuals and teams in the state. It begins today at Hooper Stadium at 7:45 a.m. with middle school runners, and will be highlighted with the girls and boys high school sweepstakes meet, starting at 9:55 a.m. Following the sweepstakes events, which are basically the best of both the large and small school division runners, the large school meets for girls are scheduled to begin at 11:05 a.m., followed by the boys large school meet.
King said it was not yet decided whether his youthful boys and girls cross-country squads would compete in the sweepstakes meets or in the large school competitions.
“I hope the boys choose the sweepstakes race, because I believe at this point that that is where they are at,” King said. “I also believe the girls will race sweepstakes because they could run in the large school meet and win it, but if we opt up, the kids will perform better and be the better runners for it.”
The girls sweepstakes meet, in particular, should be a hotly contested one, not only at the individual level, but at the team level as well. According to King, runners such as Ukiah’s Shelby Leland and Laguna Creek’s Rachel Bryan should be the favorites for the individual title, as both are ranked in the top 15 prep runners in the Western United States. But runners such as Natalie White from Oak Ridge, Bethany Gardner from Del Oro, and a pair of runners from Woodland are more than capable of upsetting the apple cart.
Among the girls teams, King pegs Placer, ranked sixth in the state at D-II, as the tentative favorite, with Reno, Ukiah, Woodland and Del Oro posing the greatest challenge.
“The darkhorse is probably us,” said King of his team, which relies on runners such as Shannon Lingo, Karley Powell and a great deal of depth to compete. “Our girls are stepping up to the plate. We don’t want to wait until the section meet to see where we are at, so this gives the girls a great chance to see how they can do on a home course with their parents there.”
In the boys sweepstakes, King said established programs such a Belmont from Los Angeles and Silver Creek from Santa Rosa are the favorites, with a pair of Nevada teams – Galena and Reno – the unknown factor among the visiting teams. But King believes his boys team, featuring runners such as Matt Freitas, Patrick Lane and Brian Dell, should be right there, and with a strong performance could finish in the top three.
“Later in the year I think we could compete with all of these teams, but right now I’m not sure. I do know the boys are excited to be running on our home course.
The sweepstakes meet will also feature Tim Nelson of Liberty Christian, who easily won the meet last year with a course record of 16 minutes, one second and is currently ranked as the second best runner in the western part of the United States, as well as among the top 10 in the nation. Placer’s Jasper Peach, said King, may be Nelson’s best competition today.
King said Bear River’s Shawn Lawrence, if he runs in the sweepstakes event, is more than capable of finishing in the top five.
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Grass Valley native Brad Sweet drove past the competition and into victory lane last week, snapping his longest winless streak of the season.