Lake Mead Invitational: Milton Amezcua wins individually, leads Green Valley to team title

Green Valley coach Bud Bean wanted to give his boys cross country team time off to prepare for the Sunrise Region tournament at the end of the month. The Gators haven’t raced in weeks to keep their legs fresh.

Looks like the strategy paid off well Saturday.

Milton Amezcua cruised to victory in the 3.1-mile boys varsity race at the Lake Mead Invitational at Veterans Memorial Park with a time of 16 minutes, 48 seconds to lead the Gators to a team victory with 51 points.

“It was a good race for me,” Amezcua said. “I was pretty proud with how I ran. I usually like to go out strong, manage the uphill parts, and use the downhill to recover.”

The senior jumped out to a lead and never looked back on the course which will also be the site for this year’s region races on Oct. 27. He finished 19 seconds better than runner-up, Conner Nicholas of Desert Oasis.

The Veterans Memorial Park course tends to be tougher than the majority of the other courses in the area for prep runners, in part because of the terrain. In addition to running on asphalt and grass, runners also must spend a fair portion of the time on dirt and sand, and the course provides more of an uphill section than most.

Fortunately for Amezcua, he was in the front the whole time, and as no one made a serious challenge after he built a 10-meter lead within the first mile.

“The sand section really wore on my legs,” Amezcua said. “It is good, though, because this is where the regionals will be. It gives me more of an idea in how to handle certain parts of the course.”

After the first mile of the boys varsity race, the battle was mostly for second place. Nicholas moved into that spot after the first mile and maintained it from there. Ryan Gilbert of Liberty came on near the end to finish third in 17:17, followed Clark’s Liam Jones (17:20) and Faith Lutheran’s Koby Ghadery (17:27).

Desert Oasis was second as a team with 70 points, followed by Faith Lutheran (81).

In the girls varsity race, Sierra Vista runners posted a 1-2 finish as junior Sarriah Brown seized the lead at roughly the midway point and pulled away to win in 20:05. Teammate Baileigh Sundin was second in 20:35.

Coronado took first in the team standings with 68 points, five less than Faith Lutheran, behind a third-place finish from Caitlin Shannon (20:52) and a fifth-place result from Claire Rawklins (20:58).

The girls race had to deal with stronger winds which resulted in slower times, but Brown used a change in strategy to alter her fortune. Normally content to lie farther off the pace, Brown was more aggressive this time around.

Basic’s Raquel Chavez set the pace for the early going, but Brown settled in only a few meters back and made her move on the dirt uphill part of the course near the halfway point to seize the lead. From there, she stretched her lead all the way to the end.

“I usually like to stay behind and tend to work on my kicks near the end,” Brown said. “This time, I came out a lot harder and stayed close to the lead. Once I took the lead, I felt really good. My goal then was to keep the bike up in front in sight.”

Chavez finished fourth between the two Coronado runners.

Tech was the top team in the small-schools division with 58 points for the boys team and 46 points for the girls team. Ellen Hirsberg of The Meadows had the best finish among small-schools girls with a time of 21:07. Lake Mead’s Shay Rutledge had the top boys time among small schools at 17:47.

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