South Tahoe’s Buchholz wins Nevada state cross country title
South Tahoe sophomore Carissa Buchholz was ahead of the pack Saturday, Nov. 4, at the Nevada State High School Cross Country Championships.
She had a solid lead over her nearest competitor just after the halfway point, but was worried about holding that advantage. She was battling fellow sophomore Jazmin Felix, the state’s top-ranked Class 3A runner from Desert Pines, who had a better personal record for the distance.
Buchholz could feel Felix breathing down her neck, even if she wasn’t there. She didn’t want to look over her shoulder for fear she would break her stride. She was hearing from fans who lined the 5,000-meter course that Felix was picking up the pace and closing the gap.
“I’ve never raced against her and I didn’t know how she races,” Buchholz told the Tribune Monday. “Some people have a kick and sometimes I don’t have a strong one after running that hard and far. She was pushing me the entire race. It was kinda scary at the end.”
Knowing the course at Shadow Mountain Park in Sparks, Nevada, where she won the 3A Northern Region title the week before, Buchholz was able to see the gap she had built over Felix on some of the course’s 90-degree turns. “I’m not gonna let her pass me …” Buchholz thought near the end of the race.
She also had a piece of advice that she always thinks about: “You run the first half of the race with your legs and the second half with your heart,” she said.
Her heart was big, and her legs were strong.
Buchholz crossed the line 11 seconds ahead of Felix to become the first Vikings girl to win the cross country title since Kelsey Smith won the 4A title in 2009. She also won in 2007 and 2008 and went on to run for UCLA. Buchholz finished in 19 minutes, 52 seconds, which was 20 seconds faster than the week before.
“I’m still kinda in shock,” said Buchholz, who early in the season was just hoping to finish in the top three after getting fifth last year. “Oh my gosh, I was exhausted when I crossed the line. I had nothing left at the end. I sprinted as fast as I could go. I was so shocked and proud of myself. All the hard work, it all paid off. It was pretty awesome standing up there on the podium feeling taller than everyone.”
“Carissa’s win is awesome,” said South Tahoe cross country program leader Mark Hoefer. “Her time would have placed her second in the Class 4A race, just 11 seconds behind the winner. Carissa has a great running future ahead of her.”
Buchholz has high standards to live up to next year and knows she’ll have to do it without her main training partner who helped push her this season, fellow state runner senior Ally Sullivan who finished 24th in the 56-runner field. She says she’s going miss her for sure.
“Her and Ally would train non-stop,” said girls’ head coach Nicki Neira. “Even during days when practice was cancelled, they both would go into the sports medicine room and run on the treadmill. They both always give 100 percent and push themselves beyond their comfort zone. I’m excited to see what she can bring next season as a junior.”
After winning the state title, her goals may change next year, although winning another state title would likely come with those goals.
“I always set goals,” Buchholz said. “I’m going to try and hold this standard but every year there are different obstacles. I’ll try to improve my time but next year I would love for the whole team to go to Las Vegas … for state — that is definitely a goal.”