RENO — A lot of hard work, both physically and mentally, were rewarded on Saturday with gold medal performances for North Tahoe at the NIAA State Cross Country Championships in Reno.
Noah McDermott and the North Tahoe boys team successfully defended their Division III/IV state titles while freshman Quinn Lehmkuhl won a thrilling individual race for first place in the girls competition on a sunny and warm day at Rancho San Rafael Park.
“They ran hard,” North Tahoe coach Warren Mills said. “They’re really dedicated kids who practice hard and race hard, they’re coachable, and they’re all just nice kids.”
Lehmkuhl outlasted Jeneke Heerema of The Meadows in a duel decided in a photo finish. The two runners finished with identical times of 20:02.
McDermott, a senior, earlier led North Tahoe’s sweep of the top four places in the boys race. The Lakers cruised home with 17 points for its second straight team state title and 17th overall under Mills dating to 1981.
The Lakers were aided by a race plan that called for them to run conservatively on a long hill early in the course and save their best for last, which includes a second trip up the same hill leading to the finish.
“This is the one that gets you,” Mills said, pointing to the hill. “Everybody screams up this at the start of the race, but I told them to hold back. They listened and came out of it 1-2-3.”
McDermott crossed the finish in a time of 16:36 — the fourth fastest of the day overall for the Division I, IA and III/IV divisions — followed by fellow seniors Shane Christian (17:23), Peter Holmes (17:42). James Palacio, a junior, placed fourth (18:00).
North Tahoe also had two sophomores crack the top 10: Cam Goldstone placed seventh (18:22) and Julien Bordes was ninth (18:36). Brandon Hackett placed 12th (18:46) to complete the team effort.
“This one of the best teams I’ve had here, and I’ve had some great teams,” Mills said. “We won this (state championship) with 17 points, we won once with 15 (1996) and twice with 19 (1985 and 2012). That tells you how good this team is.”
North Tahoe’s girls finished second as a team, trailing The Meadows by a 32-44 score.
Lehmkuhl hung behind the fast early pace set by Heerema, however, and still trailed by 5 meters coming back up the hill one last time. Lehmkuhl moved into the lead at the top, then after turning the corner, the two runners surged back and forth for 200 meters down the homestretch all the way to the finish line.
“She never quits,” Mills said of Lehmkuhl. “She’s just got that extra gear she shifts into, and you can’t coach that.”
Lehmkuhl’s time was 29 seconds faster than her winning time at the regional meet on the same course one week before.
Sophia Tallarigo placed fourth (20:51) and Tara Gallant, last year’s state champion, was fifth (21:09). Holly Lewis finished 16th (23:36) and Ingrid Roske 18th (24:00) to complete the team scoring. Kaya Williams also finished 20th (24:14) and Erica Backus 28th (25:39).