As a California school that participates in a Nevada league for sports, Truckee High athletes sometimes develop a bit of a hybrid superiority/inferiority complex — not truly embraced by Nevada teams, especially when they earn NIAA state championships, and yet not taken very seriously by the “big league” ultra-competitive California teams.
Last Friday the Truckee cross-country team left an indelible mark at the 66th Annual Mt. SAC Invitational in Walnut, Calif, which is touted as the world’s largest cross-country meet.
Indeed, 25,000 athletes from middle school through community college run one of the most challenging and storied courses over two weekends each October. Last weekend, 19,000 high schoolers ran the grueling 3-mile course that includes three major climbs, two of which are descriptively named Switchback Hill and Poop-Out Hill.
Half of all California cross country teams were in attendance, as well as a few from neighboring Arizona and Nevada. Seventy-eight of the 100 ranked California teams (top 10 teams from each of CIF Divisions 1-5, boys and girls). Friday’s races were the small to medium schools: Division 3 (1,251-2,050 students), Division 4 (500-1,250 students) and Division 5 (under 500 students).
With a stellar season under their racing flats, the Truckee girls qualified for the Division 4 sweepstakes race against 20 of the top teams in California, including eight of the top 10 ranked teams. They included No. 1 J Serra Catholic, the defending D4 state champions from San Juan Capistrano, No. 2 San Lorenzo Valley from Felton — starring Anna Maxwell, who is ranked fifth in the nation — and No. 3 Laguna Beach.
Despite their lack of California pedigree, the Truckee girls staged a shocking upset, placing third behind San Lorenzo Valley and J Serra. In fact, they had the second fastest overall time in the sweepstakes race, besting first-place J Serra with a 96:19 (19:15 average time/runner) to J Serra’s 96:31 (19:18 average time/runner).
As expected, defending champion Maxwell took an early lead, with a lightning fast 5:08 first mile pace, winning easily in 16:56. Truckee’s consistent 1-2 runners, juniors Skyler Flora and Gabrielle Rinne, who both had previous racing experience on the 5K version of the course from last season’s Footlocker Regionals, easily joined the pack behind Maxwell.
After that first mile they were in fifth and 10th places, respectively, in the field of 140 runners, eventually working themselves up to third and fifth place, in 17:55 and 18:29. Both earned coveted DyeStat National Elite Top 100 ranked times. Out of the nearly 3,000 female runners on Friday, only 14 earned that distinction.
The balance of Truckee’s point scorers were the freshman phenoms: Carrie Bradley in 15th place with a time of 19:10, which was the 31st fastest freshman time of the weekend; and Claire Lang-Ree and Amanda Rae came in quick succession in 51st and 52nd place, respectively, in 20:21 and 20:24. Rounding out the varsity team were Olivia Yale in 91st place (21:24) and Syra Fillat in 94th (21:32).
At day’s end, after 21 girls races among 334 teams of nearly 3,000 racers in Divisions 3-5, Flora had the fourth fastest individual time and Truckee’s varsity girls had the fourth fastest team time.
Out of 19 ranked teams, Truckee beat 16 of them, including Division 3 powerhouses including defending D3 state champion Bonita, No. 2 Cathedral Catholic and No. 3 Palos Verdes.
Ultimately, after Saturday’s Division 1-2 slate of races, Truckee’s girls were ranked 31st overall in time, which is quite an accomplishment considering that cracking the Top 100 list is a cause for celebration, especially as a small-school D4 team.
Outside of the varsity sweepstakes race, other Truckee girls also registered outstanding performances. Michaela Welch, a junior, placed ninth in the D 4/5 JV race in one of the largest fields of the day with 210 runners, with a time of 23:13. Two other freshman finished in the top 25 of the freshman race: Julia Veliquette was 13th (22:23) and Bella Bono 25th (23:16).
While sometimes overshadowed by their female counterparts this season, the Truckee boys truly rose to the occasion with their best showings of the season.
The varsity boys qualified for the Division 4 sub-sweepstakes race (race classification between varsity and sweepstakes) and finished third in a field of 26 teams and 178 runners. Just like the varsity girls, San Lorenzo Valley proved to be their nemesis, taking first place.
Truckee boys front-runner Noah Oberriter, a junior, broke 17 minutes and the top 10 with a ninth-place finish in 16:59. The next three point scorers, all seniors, were Nick Morgan in 22nd place (17:34), Ian Wilson in 42nd (17:57) and Simeon Murphy in 44th (18:06).
Freshman Hudson Verbeck also scored points for the team in 62nd place (18:31). Rounding out the varsity team were two more underclassmen, Jenner Tresan in 98th (19:16) and Jared Murphy in 105th (19:21).
Showing that the youthful promise of the Truckee team also extends to the boys were two freshmen participating in the D 4/5 freshmen race, both of whom finished in the top third of the field: Ian Smith in 38th (20:21) and Christopher Miller in 48th (20:35).
While Truckee coach Rob McClendon was pleased with his team’s showing at Mt. SAC, he’s looking toward this weekend’s Northern Division I-A regional championship at Rancho San Rafael Park in Reno. The top three teams and the top five individual finishers in the region qualify for the NIAA state championships the following weekend on the same course.
McClendon sees tough competition for the boys with Elko, Spring Creek and South Tahoe: “We will need big performances from our 3-7 runners if we are going to be competitive as a team at regionals this weekend.”
As for the girls, the depth of Spring Creek will pose the biggest threat: “We will have to cut down the gaps between our runners 1-5, but I am looking forward for a great team performance.”