Nevada Union, Bear River open cross country season | TheUnion.com
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Nevada Union, Bear River open cross country season

That wide smile you might have already spotted on Sara Freitas’ face is there for good reason. Nevada Union’s varsity girls cross country coach has quite a bit to be happy about in her fifth year with the Miners.

And considering this season’s squad has an eye on improving the program’s performance in 2003, we’d better take a look back at the final race run by the Miners in that campaign.

Of course, that meet was no less than the California State Championships, meaning there’s not all that much room for the Miners in raising the bar.



But if NU wants to improve on its 16th-place finish in the state Division I meet, it first has to earn a return trip. And that qualifying meet, the Sac-Joaquin Section Championships, also should serve NU as a source of motivation.

“If this isn’t the most improved, it should definitely be one of the most-improved teams in the section,” said Freitas, hours before the Miners headed off to compete in the first of this season’s two Metro Conference meets Wednesday. “We were three points short of winning a section title last year and just weren’t able to put it all together that day.




“We want to make that happen this year.”

There’s no doubt that defending section champ Davis should be looking over its shoulder in search of a slew of Miners in 2004.

“We’ve got a lot of experience and a lot of team unity and bonding,” Freitas said. “These girls are real good friends. They know how to have fun and to still be committed. They have had an incredible summer and everything is in place for these kids to have a great year.”

No less than five seniors are back in the mix this fall, led by Shannon Lingo, who turned in a 39th place finish at the state meet, the best by a member of NU’s girls squad. Also back are Caitlin Schultheiss and Shannon Buckley, who finished 83rd and 88th at state, respectively. Randi Fairweather, who finished 43rd at state last year, returns as team captain, but is currently hindered by a leg problem.

Fairweather, Freitas said, is suffering from compartment syndrome, which creates tingling in the muscles due to pressure buildup.

“We’re hoping for the best,” Freitas said.

Also returning in ’04 is senior Karly Powell, along with junior Lucie McKirdy (112th at state), and sophomore Maya Bernadette, who took 99th place at state.

Miners fans will have two opportunities to see NU on its home course this season, including Saturday’s 42nd Nevada Union Invitational and an Oct. 6 Metro Conference meet.

Nevada Union boys

Familiar faces are tough to come by for the NU varsity boys team this fall, one year removed from the program’s first Sac-Joaquin Section championship since its three-peat in 1995-97. But it’s not just the varsity runners wearing the NU logo who are in new roles this time around.

The Miners also have a new coach, sort of.

After seven years at the helm of NU’s boys, Dan King announced his retirement in January, but while doing so made it clear that “whoever takes over … will (come into Nevada Union) with the cupboards full.”

That’s because not only did the Miners’ varsity claim the section title, but so did NU’s junior varsity and freshmen squads. But new Nevada Union head coach Gene Gilligan already knew that. He was right there beside those boys as an assistant to King.

Gone are NU’s top six finishers of its 13th-place state-meet squad, including Class of ’04 members Luke Ridens (38th), Patrick Lane (45th), Matt Freitas (70th), Tyler Freeman (112th), Trevor Robertson (117th) and Brian Dell (123rd).

The lone Miner returning from that state meet performance is sophomore Parker Brown, who ran a 17:36 for 126th place as a freshman.

“The good thing is that I’ve worked with all the boys that are returning,” said Gilligan. “Even though we don’t have a lot of varsity team experience, we do have solid runners who are returning.

“When you lose a whole team, most of the time you hear ‘It’s a rebuilding year.’ But because we did so well at all levels, I know, if anything, we’re going to have a motivated group.”

Leading the way as senior captains are Zach Haas and Jon Eytchison. Robin Carr, Gilligan said, is probably the fastest of his senior group and ran sub-18 minute times as a junior over the typical 3.1-mile courses.

“I’ve also got a junior named Andrew Primrose, who’s going to be good,” Gilligan said. “And the rest are sophomores.”

Five sophomores will vie for varsity spots, including Dan Freitas, Cody Hood, Sean Lane, Nathan Taylor and Barrett Vertrees. In the first meet of the season, last Friday’s Rocklin Invitational, Gilligan placed all the seniors on the varsity and filled out the junior varsity and frosh/soph races with underclassmen.

“I expected the JV having faster times and they did,” Gilligan said. “At the first league meet (Wednesday) we’ll run the frosh/soph and then the JV and varsity together, so they’ll duke it out to see who our top seven will be.

“Our goal is always to go to state and do the best we can there. By the time of our league championships (Oct. 30), I think we’ll have a solid varsity team.”

Bear River

Just five members from the 2003 Bear River High School cross country team returned to the roster this fall, when Nate Homan opened his first season as the Bruin head coach.

Homan replaces longtime Bear River coach Nick Vogt, who is now the coach at William Jessup University in Rocklin.

“I don’t know how long he coached (at Bear River),” Homan said. “But I know he was here when I was going to NU (Nevada Union) and I graduated in ’92.”

Homan also ran cross country at NU from 1988-92, under the guidance of Jim Kays, and then ran at Dominican University in San Rafael. He then coached cross country and track and field during his first teaching job in Puerto Rico.

Homan and his wife, Melody, a Spanish teacher at NU, moved back to Nevada County in 2002. He also taught at his alma mater for one year before teaching the last two years at Bear River and accepting the reins the cross country program over the summer.

“It was tough because I wasn’t able to contact the runners over the summer and in cross country you have to prepare well in advance,” he said. “Most of my runners started running the first week of school. We’re going to try and work through the first part of the season, get our base in and get into shape.”

Only five members from the boys and girls program, combined, returned this fall. Seniors Aaron Raynsford, Joe Rohm and Matt Waechter were joined by junior Glen Wheeler as the lone returnees on the boys side. Sophomore Crickett Hooker is the only Bruin girl who ran cross country last season.

Homan, and assistant coach Salem Peterson – “She’s really a co-head coach. And she graduated from NU, too,” said Homan -have recruited a total of 18 runners in the program thus far.

While he expects to field a full varsity boys team, as well as full junior varsity boys and girls squads, Homan said he has just two varsity girls at this point, senior Colleen Noud and junior Michelle Tyler.

Though the results were not yet in, he said the Bruins probably placed third in team scoring at the first Pioneer Valley League meet on Wednesday with Colfax and Oakmont finishing ahead of Bear River.

“After we work through the first part of the season,” Homan said, “I definitely would say we’ll be contenders at the end of the season.

“Our final league meet is another six weeks or so away, so we should be much better by then.”

BEAR RIVER

Head coach: Nate Homan

Last year: N/A

Key returners: Aaron Raynsford (12), Joe Rohm (12), Matt Waechter (12), Glen Wheeler (11).

Key newcomers: Geram Madsen (12), Colleen Noud (12), Ryan Winchell (12), Michelle Tyler (11).

Season Outlook: “After we work through the first part of the season,” Homan said, “I definitely would say we’ll be contenders at the end of the season.”

___

Varsity girls

Head coach: Sara Freitas

Last season: Finished second at Sac-Joaquin Section Championship meet and 16th at the CIF State Championship meet in Division I.

Key returners: Shannon Buckley (12), Randi Fairweather (12), Shannon Lingo (12), Caitlin Schultheiss (12), Lucie McKirdy (11), Maya Bernadette (10).

Key newcomer: Karly Powell (12).

Season Outlook: “They have had an incredible summer,” Freitas said, “and everything is in place for these kids to have a great year.”

Varsity boys

Head coach: Gene Gilligan

Last season: Finished first at Sac-Joaquin Section Championship and 13th at the CIF State Championship meet in Division I.

Key returner: Parker Brown (10).

Key newcomers: Robin Carr (12), Zach Haas (12), Jon Eytchison (12), Andrew Primrose (Jr.), Dan Freitas (10), Cody Hood (10), Sean Lane (10), Nathan Taylor (10), Barrett Vertrees (10).

Season Outlook: “When you lose a whole team, most of the time you hear ‘It’s a rebuilding year,'” said Gilligan. “But because we did so well at all levels, I know, if anything, we’re going to have a motivated group.”


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