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Fast start helps Centennial’s Gourrier win Red Rock invite

The top runners on the Centennial girls cross country team are starting to make winning look easy.

A week after teammate Kayla Roberts led the entire way en route to winning the Las Vegas Invitational, freshman Alexis Gourrier accomplished the same feat Saturday.

Gourrier jumped out to a quick lead and never looked back to win the 3-mile Red Rock Running Invitational in 18 minutes, 32.4 seconds. The time was a personal best for Gourrier.

“I did really good today,” Gourrier said. “I was nervous at the beginning because I thought it was going to be really close getting out at the start, and I was going to be all crammed up. But I got out good, and I was able to stay there.”

Palo Verde runners Emma Wahlenmaier (18:46.4) and Tori Landers (18:53.2) placed second and third. Desert Oasis’ Brooke Locey finished fourth (19:05.2), and Roberts was fifth (19:09.6).

The Bulldogs ended the day with five runners finishing in the top 11. Strong performances by Marieta Wright, Julia Weaver and Addie Hall helped Centennial claim the team title as well with 32 points. Palo Verde finished second with 73 points, and Arbor View was third with 107 points.

“It feels great to get a team win,” Centennial assistant girls coach Kisha Finch said. “Our three, four and five runners really stepped up today. Our six stepped up as well. They got ahead of Palo’s No. 3, and that is where it really starts to make a difference with team scores. This was a fast course, and that definitely plays into our strengths as a team. We are a speed and endurance group, and a fast course like this is great for them.”

In the boys’ race, Centennial senior Dajour Braxton was back to his previous form after fighting off a respiratory infection, winning the race in 15:43.2. Braxton finished second to Palo Verde’s Noah Landers in last week’s Las Vegas Invitational.

Braxton and teammate Keith Turner were in a pack of five runners maintaining a blistering pace on the course through the first 2,000 meters. With a little less than a mile to go, Braxton broke away from the pack, finishing 19 seconds ahead of Tech’s Garrett Meyer (16:02.2). Durango’s Marlon Medina was third in 16:06.1, and Turner crossed the finish fourth in 16:08.8. Centennial’s Dominic Roberts finished fifth in 16:12.9.

“I’m still feeling sick, so I was not able to run as fast as I want, but Keith was able to push me through that,” Braxton said. “It’s great to have Keith on the team. Last week, I was feeling sick and didn’t how to strategize that, plus I didn’t know Noah had such a strong kick.”

The strong finishes by Braxton, Turner and Dominic Roberts helped the Bulldogs win the team competition with 59 points. Clark was second with 121 points, four points ahead of Coronado.

“(Dajour and Keith) are pretty competitive,” boys coach Mike McGuire said. “It started in track last year, and it has continued on to cross country. They are helping each other between them and Dominic, too. They are pushing real hard, and it is a great situation as a coach.

“But in cross country, you need five scores. So, we want to get the five of them to push closer together from four through seven. We want them doing the same thing one through three are doing. If we can do that, we’ll stay competitive.”

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