PREP CROSS COUNTRY: Tight-knit Miners ready for CIF State Championships
There are several reasons for the high level of success Nevada Union’s cross country team has found this season. The Miners are a competitive group, loaded with talent and boasting lots of experience. They are also a humble group and quickly point to their bond with each other as their true source of strength.
“Being as close as we are, it’s really easy to push each other to do better,” said NU junior Mackenzie Morgan, noting that the team is extremely tight on and off the course. “There’s no pressure of letting your team down, because we are all there for each other.”
Teammate Hannah Tiffany added, “We’re all just really supportive of each other, especially in workouts. We all run together and it’s a really great environment.”
The bond on NU’s girls team and their penchant for running together is evident in their results. In the Foothill Valley League finals the Lady Miners packed four runners in the top-seven. At the Sub-section meet, they had four finish in the top-12, and at the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 3 Championships they placed four in the top-13 to earn second place as a squad.
“They train well with each other and they race well with each other,” said NU head coach Kevin Selby. “There’s also a pretty high competitive level on this team.”
Their bond, their skill and their competitiveness has propelled the NU girls team back to the CIF State Championships for a third straight year.
Joining the girls at the state meet is NU boys runner Jake Slade, who earned an individual bid to Saturday’s championships in Fresno.
“There’s humility and tenacity on this team,” said Selby. “They don’t walk around the campus at NU looking for attention. They gather attention through their results.”
Slade earned his spot at the state meet by way of a second place finish at the Section’s D3 Championships. The junior also took second at the Sub-section meet and placed first at the Foothill Valley League finals.
“Jake has established himself as a front runner and he needs to run like a front runner at the state meet,” said Selby. “He’s just tough and now he’s figuring out the tactics. He’s put himself in position to be successful. It took him a long time to get comfortable at the front of races, but now he’s there.”
Slade, much like the members of the girls team, credits his teammates for his success.
“The only reason I’m going to state is because of my teammates,” he said, noting that fellow NU runners Travis Selby and Antonio Valenti have been immensely important to his maturation as a distance runner. “Without them I really wouldn’t be where I am today. They really helped develop me as a cross country runner.”
Slade won’t have his teammates running alongside of him at the state championships, but said he’s mentally prepared for the challenge.
“My mental game is what keeps me going, because you have to give over 100 percent if you want to complete the race,” he said. “It doesn’t matter really how fast you are, but how mentally strong you are. That’s what pulls you into that top-five.”
The girls team is comprised of seven runners, including Tiffany, Morgan, Megan Schreck, Sephora Wontor, Alma Ramirez, Caitlyn Sullivan and Zoe Keriotis. All but Keriotis, a freshman, competed at last year’s state championships.
“We’re going to run as hard as we can,” said Morgan, who will be competing in her third state meet. “There’s pressure, but it’s not a lot of pressure. We’re going to do our best and have fun.”
Wontor, who is also making her third trip to the state championships, was the Lady Miners’ top finisher at last year’s event.
“The first two, I didn’t really know how to run. I could run, but I have more experience now and my team really pulls me along. It’s a lot more enjoyable this year,” Wontor said. “We all go in this together, and when we’re on the line, it’s time to run. We just help each other out.”
Selby said he doesn’t have a set goal for the team as far as where he wants them to finish in the final results, he just wants to see them continue to improve.
“They just need to get in the race and compete,” said Selby. “We’ve been to the course multiple times. They’ve been to the state meet 2-3 times. They have to use their experience and just simply compete, and take the risks that come along with competition.”
A year ago at the state meet, the NU girls placed 20th out of 25 teams in Division 3.
Tiffany, one of only two seniors on the team, said her squad is ready for the challenge that awaits them at Fresno’s Woodward Park on Saturday.
“We’ve been training really, really hard since June,” she said. “Just working out and pushing ourselves. We’re ready.”
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4232.
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