One of the initial tasks for any high school basketball coach is to whip his players into shape. Unless the player is Noah McDermott.
“Noah can run like a rabbit. He could go forever,” said North Tahoe basketball coach Frank Wright, referring to one of the greatest distance runners in a long line of state champion Lakers.
McDermott, who could hold his own on a basketball floor with sheer quickness and scrappiness, graduated with more than his share of state championship hardware.
He went undefeated both his junior and senior years en route to winning back-to-back state championships in cross-country. In track, he won state titles in both the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs three consecutive years.
“He is definitely one of the greatest runners North Tahoe has ever had,” said Warren Mills, the Lakers’ longtime cross-country coach. “He brought a lot of class to North Tahoe. He’s a really good kid.”
While he had plenty of competition among the Lakers’ stacked class of senior athletes, McDermott’s running dominance against the best in the state earned him the distinction as the Sierra Sun’s Male Athlete of the Year from North Tahoe High School.
“Look what he did,” Wright said. “His accomplishments are off the board. Everything he touches he turns to gold.”
Simply put, McDermott can run like the wind blows.
He got an early taste for success as a freshman on the Laker boys state champion cross-country team, which he bolstered with an eighth-place individual finish. He placed third in the cross-country state championship as a sophomore, and that was the last cross-country race he didn’t win.
He went on to go undefeated as a junior and senior, not only winning consecutive individual state titles, but also helping lead the North Tahoe boys to back-to-back team titles. The Laker boys now own a state record 17 state cross-country championships, which is six more than the next-highest total (Reno has 11).
Aside from McDermott’s natural ability, Mills credits his hard work and dedication to the sport.
“You can’t be the best cross-country runner on talent alone. You have to run your tail off every day and accept every challenge,” said Mills, who has coached many individual state champions over the decades. “He’s as hard-working as any kid I ever had, and he was a class act from Day 1. He just does things right. He sets the example for the entire team. He works hard and never quits, no matter how bad he feels. He’s the first guy out and the last guy in. What more can you ask for?”
After running circles around his competition in the fall, McDermott showed during the winter season that he his athleticism was not limited to endurance sports.
He was an impact player on the North Tahoe basketball team. With quick hands and a nose for the ball, he created havoc for opposing ball handlers and helped the Lakers establish their defensive identity. And he never lost his cool in the heat of the game.
“He’s a hell of a defensive player and an outstanding student-athlete. And he’s one of the nicest kids you’d ever want to deal with,” Wright said. “He did everything you ever asked him to do. He just has his act together.”
Come spring, McDermott was back in his element — running.
“He’s the best two-miler we ever had,” Mills said, adding that McDermott owns the North Tahoe school record in the 3,200-meter run, at 9 minutes, 34 seconds, set at the Woody Wilson Classic his senior year. The mark stands as the Nevada Division III state record (also Division I-A).
McDermott’s best time in the 1,600, of 4:28, is four seconds off the North Tahoe school record and among the fastest times in Division III history.
“He’s definitely a 2-miler, and he’ll be a great 3-miler in college,” said Mills, referring to McDermott’s plans to run both cross-country and track on scholarship at Saint Mary’s College. “In track, where he came up short was the shorter distances. He can run the same pace as his 2-mile in the 3-mile, and probably into the 4-mile.”
While stronger in the longer distances, McDermott also finished second at state in the 800 to teammate Peter Holmes and was part of the winning 4 x 800 relay. His North Tahoe boys finished second as a team.
“Noah was our biggest scorer and huge persona on the team,” said Rob Daniels, North Tahoe’s head track and field coach. “While he was one of the more quiet in a group, he is a great leader. His presence helped to set the tone of workouts, and his work ethic is why he has the great success that he has.”
McDermott, who was recently honored as a valedictorian, plans to major in kinesiology at Saint Mary’s.