When she mapped out the qualifying times, Centennial coach Kisha Finch figured her team had a good chance to win Saturday’s Class 4A girls state cross country championship at the Shadow Mountain Sports Complex in Sparks.
But she also knew things rarely turn out the way the numbers lay out on paper.
With four runners finishing in the top 17 individually, Centennial won its third state championship in the last four years, even if the runners didn’t finish in the order they might have expected.
“The depth of our team has been what’s our key success point, and them really challenging each other and stepping up,” Finch said.
Kloe Littleman led the Bulldogs with a ninth place finish individually, with McKenzie Morgan 13th, Alexis Gourrier 14th and Josephine Ruggieri 17th to lead Centennial to the team title with 53 points. Damonte Ranch was second with 70, Coronado came in third with 90.
To Finch’s surprise, Reno, which she thought might be Centennial’s toughest competition, was fifth with 120 points.
“You look at the numbers and you know the chance is there, but everyone has to show up on the day,” Finch said. “Lex didn’t have the race that she wanted to, but Kloe and our next group, McKenzie and Jo stepped up to kind of make up that gap.”
Alexis Melendrez of Spanish Springs was the individual champion, as the top three individuals were Northern runners.
The top Southern runners was Claire Rawlins of Coronado in fourth place with a time of 20:23. While other Southern runners seemed to struggle with the altitude or the cool weather, Rawlins beat her regional time by 22 seconds.
“I don’t know (how), it’s a miracle,” Rawlins said. “I think just adrenaline.”
Jazmin Felix places second in Class 3A
In the Class 3A race, Spring Creek had all five runners place in the top 14 to claim the team championship with 34 points, with Truckee second at 59 and Elko third with 77. Desert Pines was fourth at 116 and Tech came in fifth with 131 points.
Individually, Carissa Buccholz of South Tahoe was the champion with a time of 19:52, beating Jazmin Felix of Desert Pines by 11 seconds.
Felix ran 36 seconds faster than her regional time, but more than a minute off her personal best, and said she misjudged the course and started too fast.
“The course looked pretty easy, but it wasn’t,” Felix said. “I could have kept up with her, but I’m not used to the weather or anything like that, so that affected me.”
Ellen Hirsbirg finally wins state
In the Class 2A race, four-time regional champion Ellen Hirsberg of the Meadows broke through to win her first individual championship, the lone Southern individual titlist.
Hirsberg ran in a winning time of 20:30, beating Kili Lehkuhl of North Tahoe by 15 seconds. She said the cool, but not cold, weather helped her.
“This year my experience I feel like helped me and I was more confident in my training and I was more relaxed,” Hirsberg said. “Through the first mile I was relaxed I tried to stay in the first pack and my legs felt strong, so I just felt like, go.”