North Tahoe cross-country | Lehmkuhl, boys, girls claim state championships | SierraSun.com

North Tahoe cross-country | Lehmkuhl, boys, girls claim state championships

Sylas Wright
swright@sierrasun.com

The North Tahoe cross-country teams had not won a race all season entering the regional championships.

They had their competition right where they wanted them.

After winning the boys and girls regional team titles, the North Tahoe boys earned a third consecutive Division III/IV state championship in Las Vegas on Saturday, while the girls won their first state title since 2006 by edging a Meadows team that dominated the Southern regionals with a perfect score.

"I'd have to say they peaked OK," said longtime North Tahoe coach Warren Mills, whose Lakers have now won a combined 26 state championships between their boys and girls teams — an NIAA record.

North Tahoe's boys have earned 18 state titles — seven more than the next highest total — and the girls have eight, which ranks third in the NIAA record book.

The Lakers' state performances may have surprised some. Not Mills, despite the fact that his boys team graduated the top three finishers in last year's state championship, and the girls were up against The Meadows, which swept the top five spots in the Southern Division III/IV championships.

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"Well, that was our plan, to win two regionals and two states," Mills said. "Our girls were facing our nemesis from last year, and they (The Meadows) had everybody back. We knew that from the beginning. But that didn't change our plan. You don't go in planning on second. If you do that you might as well stay home."

Thanks to the Lakers' dominant one-two punch at the top of their roster, and a little help from an unlikely source, North Tahoe's girls won the championship with a low score of 46 points to The Meadows' 48. Incline, which recorded three top-six finishes, placed third with 55 points.

"The girls race was phenomenal. Every one of our girls ran out of their mind," Mills said. "Incline also stepped up and had a heck of a race, and they damaged Meadows to help us. They put a couple kids ahead of Meadows to bump their score up. Obviously they were trying to win, but I have to credit Incline a lot."

Unlike last year, when North Tahoe freshman Quinn Lehmkuhl claimed the individual state title in a photo finish with The Meadows' Jeneke Heerema, Lehmkuhl left no doubt about her second consecutive title. She crossed the line well ahead of her competition, posting a time of 19:35.5 over the 5-kilometer course. Senior teammate Tara Gallant, who won the individual title as a sophomore, was second in 20:04.1.

"We knew that with Quinn and Tara coming back, one of them was going to win it," Mills said. "Quinn's got ice in her veins. She's a tough one. And Tara had a great four years. She is probably the hardest-working, most tenacious girl I've ever coached. I don't think she missed a practice or a race in four years. She just ran well."

Incline sophomore Urs Volz was third in 20:14.6, and Heerema led The Meadows in fourth, in 20:40.4. Incline's Kate Rye was fifth (20:55.9)

Trailing Lehmkuhl and Gallant, North Tahoe junior Kaya Williams finished 10th in 21:51, junior Sophia Tallarigo was 15th in 22:45.1 and freshman Jacs Mellor was 19th in 23:02.2 to round out the Lakers' top five scores. Torrie Goldstone was 33rd (25:11.8) and Ingrid Roske 37th (26:03.2).

After Heerema, The Meadows placed their next four scoring runners in seventh, ninth, 12th and 16th.

In the boys race, the Lakers won their third straight championship with relative ease, posting a low score of 31 points to runner-up Silver Stage's 59 and third-place Incline's 83. And that was without last year's top three finishers — Noah McDermott, Shane Christian and Peter Holmes — all of whom graduated.

Despite the loss of their big three, North Tahoe returned senior James Palacio, who was fourth at state last year, and freshman JC Schoonmaker, who will be a force to reckon with in the coming years. A number of other Laker boys were top-10 threats.

"From what we had back from last year, I knew we had a pretty strong core of boys. No dominant runners, but strong," Mills said.

Schoonmaker finished third with a time of 17:59.1, trailing only Brandon Perez of Silver Stage, who won in 17:49.3, and runner-up Ethan Hardacre of Sage Ridge (17:55.1).

Palacio placed seventh in 18:09.7, junior teammate Julien Bordes was eighth (18:20.6), junior Jackson Shaw was 11th (18:38.1) and senior Austin Nall rounded out North Tahoe's top five scores in 15th (18:48.9). Cam Goldstone was 21st (19:46.3) and Kobi Hudson 29th (20:10.4).

"The kids worked their tails off," Mills said, adding that he expects both his boys and girls teams to be competitive again in 2015. "It was as great year."