Lakers run to state cross country title
While there have been countless highlights for coach Warren Mills and North Tahoe High School cross country since 1974, the Lakers’ girls gave a performance for the ages Saturday at the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association (NIAA) Cross Country Championships in Boulder City.
Having chased after perennial power Lowry all season ” much longer than that, actually ” a senior-laden North Tahoe squad ran down the six-time defending Buckaroos to narrowly capture the 3A girls team title on a tiebreaker in the race at Veterans Memorial Park. The two teams finished even with 53 points each and North Tahoe won the tiebreaker on the strength of its No. 6 runner, freshman Maiya Greenwood.
North Tahoe has now won 21 state cross country championships ” 14 for the boys, seven for the girls ” but this one truly stands out as special to the entire team and to Mills.
“It was probably the most exciting day of my life,” Mills said. “It’s the sweetest (state championship) I’ve ever won. No question. The girls just flat-out stepped up and ran unbelievably well. They hadn’t won a race all year ” third was the highest they had finished ” but if you’re going to only win one, that’s the one to you want.”
This was truly a special occasion for Mills both as a coach and father, since his youngest daughter, senior Julianna Mills, rebounded from a 29th-place run at regionals one week before to take 12th on Saturday. In doing so, she joined four older brothers who all ran for North Tahoe state championship teams ” Jeremy, Jacob, Andy and Tommy.
“It was all kind of blurry … I do know it’s one of the best feelings I’ve ever had in my life,” said Julianna Mills, one of six seniors in North Tahoe’s lineup. “It was an amazing race. We all ran well. We all knew we couldn’t leave anything out there.”
Clad in brand new hot pink running shorts, the Lakers didn’t leave an ounce of energy on the 5-kilometer (3.1 miles) course. Coach Mills knew that as soon as the race ended. The only thing he didn’t know was that North Tahoe had won.
“Their five was ahead of our five and their one was ahead of our one, so I was fairly certain they had won and that we had finished second,” coach Mills said. “I was getting ready to tell the girls how great they had run and that they were state champions as far as I was concerned … but then the Lowry coach, Robbie Grant, came up and said, ‘I want to be the first to congratulate you.’ We instantly went from tears of despair to tears of joy.”
Lowry outran North Tahoe by a 31-50 score to win the Northern 3A Regional title just one week before in Reno. Saturday was an entirely different story.
Erin Altick ran 22 minutes, 33 seconds to capture sixth-place ” her fourth straight top-10 finish at state ” yet one of the keys to victory was having three teammates come in together 23 seconds apart as Dani Griffo placed 10th, Mills 12th and Carly McCready 14th. The four seniors earned individual all-state recognition.
Bridget Kimmey, another senior, finished 23rd to round out the team’s top five. North Tahoe and Lowry were tied at that point, so the tiebreaker came down to Greenwood, who finished 26th, three places ahead of Lowry’s No. 6 runner.
“I’ve never won state on a tiebreaker,” coach Mills said. “It was so exciting. You could’ve heard me from Las Vegas.”
North Tahoe’s seventh finisher was Molly McDermott, another senior, who finished 31st.
“I’m so excited for these girls. I’ve had them for four years and they’ve been looking at blue (Lowry) all four years, and now, they don’t have to anymore.
“It was a collective team effort. They all put it out there. They all kicked it in to the wire.”
North Tahoe’s boys also had a successful day as senior Scott Smelser placed fourth, only eight seconds behind Truckee’s Micah Silver in third and only 23 seconds off the winning pace set by Lowry’s Matt Pike.
Smelser was wearing the same color hot pink shorts as the girls.
“The top four pulled away from the rest of the field and he was right there with them,” Mills said of Smelser, who improved by more than a minute from his 11th-place showing at regionals. “It was great to see everyone on the same page and on the same track in the last race of the year. They were all totally focused on what we were doing.”
Girls team scores: 1, North Tahoe 53, 2, Lowry 53 (North Tahoe wins tie-breaker), 3, Faith Lutheran 61, 4, Boulder City 75, 5, Spring Creek 97.
Individual: 1, McKenzie Dean, Pahrump Valley, 21:31, 2, Hailey Yadon, Lowry, 21:45; North Tahoe: 6, Erin Altick 22:33, 10, Dani Griffo 23:32, 12, Julianna Mills 23:48, 14, Carly McCready 23:55, 23, Bridget Kimmey 25:01, 26, Maiya Greenwood 25:01, 31, Molly McDermott 26:29. Truckee: 13, Kelsey Waters 23:50, 24, Gina Krauss 25:15, 28, Kelsey Dion 26:02.
Boys team scores: 1, Lowry 28, 2, Truckee 45, 3, Spring Creek 61, 4, Boulder City 108, 5, Faith Lutheran 114.
Individual: 1, Matt Pike, Lowry, 17:34; Truckee: 3, Micah Silver 17:49, 7, Spencer Wood 18:09, 8, Hansen Laclair 18:25, 16, Kyle Britto 19:14, 24, Max Salinger 20:10, 40, Stefan Benier 22:43, 41, Drew Deurlington 23:02. North Tahoe: 4, Scott Smelser 17:57.