Local teams strive for top spots in Las Vegas Invitational

The premier cross country invitational in Southern Nevada takes place Saturday.

The top local teams, based on the most recent coaches poll, and teams from Arizona, California and Utah will meet at Veterans Memorial Park in Boulder City for the 42nd Larry Burgess-Las Vegas Cross Country Invitational.

It likely is the only time that the top teams from the Sunset and Sunrise Regions will compete head-to-head until the state meet in November. 

Rancho Buena Vista (Calif.) will be back to defend its boys and girls team titles, but the San Diego-area powerhouse will be returning with fewer entries than usual, and should be well challenged by Centennial, Foothill, Green Valley, Tech, Shadow Ridge, and Coronado in the boys race, and Green Valley, Coronado, Arbor View, Foothill, Palo Verde, and Basic in the girls meet.

In the boys race, defending state champion Nick Hartle of Centennial, who took runner-up honors at the LVI last year, is a the clear favorite to win it all.

Other runners to watch will be Rancho Buena Vista’s Scott Gisel, who was fourth in 2010; Basabose Bahati of Clark, who finished a close second to Hartle at the Palo Verde Labor Day Classic; Tech’s Martin Ponce, who is undefeated in two meets this season; and Alan Ekanger of Coronado and Nick Priego of Del Sol, both of whom won races in the opening week.   

The top entry on the girls side is Palo Verde sophomore Katie Gorczyca, who won both the LVI and state titles last year and captured the Labor Day Classic last week.

Her strongest competition is likely to come from Andrea Gonzalez of Arbor View, who was third at the LVI in 2010; Jamie West of Rancho Buena Vista, the fourth-place finisher at the LVI a year ago; and

Sydney Badger of Centennial, eighth a year ago and winner at her first tri-meet.

Boulder City’s Jessica Tobler and Coronado’s Kelly Smith are also unbeaten this season and could challenge.

The high school races begin at 8:30 a.m. and include freshman-sophomore races and JV races, as well as varsity races for both large and small schools.