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LAKE MEAD INVITE: Centennial’s Badger meets goal, blows away field

Before the Lake Mead Invitational started Saturday, Centennial’s Sydney Badger set a goal for herself.

“I wanted to break 19 [minutes] because this is my first time on this course all season,” she said.

The senior met that goal and then some.

Badger won the 3.1-mile Division I girls race by 36 seconds at Veterans’ Memorial Park in Boulder City. Her time of 18 minutes, 47.4 seconds was more than a minute and a half faster than last year’s winner.

“For me, I felt good,” Badger said. “I took a pretty good pace at the beginning and just tried to keep it. I know after the lake you have a pretty big downhill, so that’s where I knew to surge.”

Her coach, Roy Session, knew she would be capable of reaching her goal.

“She’s the hardest worker on the team,” Session said. “She’s a team captain, she’s a leader, she’s just a great kid, she really is.”

Several schools across the country have been recruiting Badger, who is a 4.0 student as well as a stand out in track and cross country.

“She’s probably one of the top recruited kids in the nation right now for track and cross country,” Session said. “Not just so much for her ability, but she’s a good student and good kid. You name it, [and] she’s pretty much being recruited by them.”

Coronado’s Sara Dort finished second (19:23.4) in the race, followed by last year’s champion, Arbor View’s Zanae Jones (19:52.6).

Jones improved on her 2012 winning time, but it still wasn’t enough to defeat Badger. Jones did lead the Aggies to the team title with 41 points, four points ahead of second-place Centennial. Green Valley was third with 73.

The Aggies placed five runners in the top 15 to take first place.

Centennial’s Katie Gorczyca (19:53.2) and Arbor View’s Morgan Anderson (20:24.2) rounded out the top five for girls individually.

Eddie Esquivel won the Division I boys race, finishing in 16:26.8.

“I think I did pretty good,” Esquivel said. “I believed in my talent and training. I believed in myself and pushed it and I got first.”

His rival, Arbor View’s Cole Jones, finished second in 16:54.4 seconds.

“I was hoping to stay close to Eddie,” Jones said. “I knew that he was going to be at the top. I had raced with him at UNLV. I had the upper hand for the most part of the race, and then he beat me towards the end again.”

Esquivel felt “a little nervous” down the stretch on Saturday.

“I saw Arbor View’s Cole right in front of me and I saw he was slowing down a bit,” Esquivel said. “And I also saw the kids behind me catching up so I knew that if I didn’t speed up now and keep up that pace, they were going to be close to me, so I had to leave them.”

Eldorado coach Josh Wertheimer thought Esquivel performed well in a race that would prepare him for the regional course in a few weeks.

“Eddie’s a dedicated athlete,” Wertheimer said. “He runs and does exactly what you want him to do. He’s great to have in a practice setting.”

Coronado’s Colin Schaefer finished third in 16:57.5 seconds, followed by Green Valley’s Austin Rogers (17:18.8) and Desert Oasis’ Frankie Martinez (17:27.5).

Rogers helped Green Valley win the Division I boys overall team title. The Gators recorded had 60 points and Arbor View finished second with 82.

Green Valley’s coach, Blaine Thompson, said he was thrilled to take first with such a young team.

“I was extremely proud of them,” Thompson said. “Maybe the best thing they do, is they love to run together. About 10 of them will train together and no one kid can ever slack off because there’s always half a dozen other kids to pick them up and push them.”

Tech’s Martin Ponce won the Division I-A boys race in 17:01.7 to lead the Roadrunners to the I-A team title with 37 points. Clark was second with 61.

The Meadows won the Division I-A girls title with 29 points, well ahead of second-place Faith Lutheran (63).

Bailey Gosse (20:28.5) and Jeneke Heerema (20:45.5) took the top two spots in the race to lead the Mustangs.

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