Striders compete at Junior Olympic regionals

RENO - Sunday marked a coming out party for the Carson City Striders youth running club and it turned out to be a big success because the Striders returned home with two age group team championships from the Region XVI Pacific Association Cross Country Championships.

The Striders won both the intermediate (15-16 year olds) and youth (13-14) girls team championships during an event that attracted runners from Northern Nevada and California to Rancho San Rafael Park. Not bad for a fledgling group that broke its ties with the Reno-based Silver State Striders to compete as its own club for the first time this fall.

"We're running brand new on our own and I thought we did great for our first time out," Carson City Striders coach Penny Sparks said. "I was really proud of all the kids."

Individually, the Striders' Shanna Sparks won the girls intermediate division (15-16 year olds) and Brett Ferrier won the young men's (17-18) race in a course record time.

Sparks, who won Nevada's 4A girls individual state championship two weeks ago for Carson High School, not only won her intermediate age group but beat a combined field that included runners in the young women's age group as she ran 20 minutes, 24 seconds over the hilly 5,000-meter course. Megan Zahnter of the Carson Striders was third in 21:58 and Sarah Shaw of Carson High and the Silver State Striders was fourth in 22:09. Rounding out the Carson Striders' team effort, Heather Thompson finished seventh (22:31), Marin St. Michel 12th (23:19), Caitlin Robinson 13th (24:16) and Terah Laack 16th (24:56).

The Carson Striders beat Sacramento's Buffalo Chips to win the youth girls team title. Kelsey Engstrom of Winnemucca won the race for the Striders with a 15:53 clocking over 4,000 meters, 31 seconds ahead of the Buffalo Chips' Erin Wachter. Katie Engstrom placed fourth (16:49), Sheena Bonaldi 10th (17:11), Annie Brinson 11th (17:12), Amanda Benson 22nd (18:02) and Jessie Clemmensen 28th (18:46) to complete the Striders' team performance.

"Our youth girls team has a good shot at winning nationals," coach Sparks said, looking ahead to the USA Track and Field Junior Olympic National Championships on Dec. 9 at Rancho San Rafael Park. "We have six very solid girls in that group."

The first-place finisher in the young women's division was Robyn Stevens of Vacaville, one of California's top middle distance track runners and competed as a race walker at last month's World Junior Championships. Stevens ran 20:44, followed by Julie Hinton of Galena High and the Silver State Striders in second place (22:33). The Carson Striders' Nicole Tyler (23:32) and Amy Martin (23:24) were third and fourth respectively and Candace Bean of Carson High and the Silver State Striders was fifth (24:40).

Meanwhile, Ferrier outdueled Dan Wolf of the Silver State Striders to win the young men's division race in 16:42 over the 5,000-meter layout. Ferrier, the 3A state champion for Lowry High in Winnemucca, finished 23 seconds ahead of Wolf, who was the state 4A champion for Reno High.

"Brett ran real strong," coach Sparks said. "He was in command of the race in the first mile and nobody ever pushed him."

Daryl Nourse, a senior at Carson High, ran 17:27 to finish third in the race while Galena High senior Chad Sanada finished fourth in 17:37. Nourse and Sanada led the Silver State Striders to the young men's team title.

Chris Cosmi of South Lake Tahoe and Jaime Cabada of Winnemucca, placed second and third respectively for the Carson Striders in the intermediate boys race.

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