In addition to chasing several dozen of the zone's top runners at today's Northern 4A meet at Reed High, the Carson High School harriers will also try to track down their own piece of Northern Nevada cross country history.
In the 20 years that both a boys and girls zone meet has been contested, Carson is the only team ever to sweep both the boys and girls title in the same year. The Senators accomplished that feat four consecutive times between 1989-92.
With both the girls and boys teams rated No. 2 in the zone entering today's meet, the 1999 Senators could become just the fifth team ever to sweep the boys and girls races. The varsity boys' race is at 2:30 p.m.; the girls varsity race begins at 3:30. The top four teams from both the boys and girls race will advance to next week's state meet.
"Realistically, we're looking at two second places, but both teams have a shot at first," said Carson coach Jason Macy. "To win, everybody will have to run their race and be 'on' for that day."
With two of the top individuals in the meet, Daryl Nourse and Shanna Sparks, the Senators also have a chance of joining the 1990 Carson High squad as the only team in Northern 4A history to sweep the team and individual titles. The individuals who won zone titles for the Senators in '90 were Bob Ryser (16:23 for five kilometers) and Kim Orlando (20:05).
Tim Tetz, a teammate of Ryser's on the '89 Senator team which swept zone, and the owner of the Carson City Fleet Feet store, said the '99 Senator squad reminds him of the late '80s teams.
"This year's team is very much like those teams, with two fantastic runners who can win any meet in Nevada and, after that, a hodgepodge of runners who have a lot of heart and soul and give it their all," said Tetz, who still runs and completed the Humboldt Redwoods Marathon on Oct. 17.
In order for Carson to sweep both the team and individual titles, here's what needs to happen today on Reed's 3.1-mile course:
-- In the boys' team race, the Senators will have to keep pace with the runners from Reno and South Tahoe. The Huskies are the only team the Senators haven't beaten this season, but Macy believes it's the Vikings who are peaking at the right time.
After losing both Jeff Young and Sergio Cavillo to knee injuries in the last few weeks, Carson will send Nourse, Evan Fischer, Blake Baldwin, Josh Branco, Paul Capistrant, Ryan Costella and Justin Barber into the boys' race today.
-- In the girls' team race, Carson athletes will have to make up the roughly 20-second gap which has existed between them and the McQueen runners all season.
Sparks and Caitlin Prunty are likely to outdistance the Lancers' top runners, but the Senator pack of Carrie Stair, Megan Zahnter, Amy Martin, Katy Hoffman and Heather Beaudette will probably have to finish ahead of McQueen's fifth runner for the Senators to win.
-- In the boys' individual race, Nourse is one of the favorites along with Lowry's Bret Farrier and Galena's Chad Sanada. Farrier is the only Northern 4A runner Nourse hasn't defeated at least once this year.
Nourse said he's prepared to run a sub-17 minute race today.
"I'll try to hang with the leaders and then try to gut it out," said Nourse, a junior who was 16th at zone in '98.
"Daryl is becoming stronger and stronger as the season progresses," said Macy, himself a member of the Carson teams in the mid '80s. "If he can bust a good race, he can win it."
Not to be overlooked is Fischer, the '98 zone champion. After a late start this season, Fischer is becoming more competitive with each race and could be capable of pulling off another shocking finish.
"It wasn't until zone that Evan won a race last year," Nourse pointed out.
-- The finish of the girls' individual race is probably the easiest to predict, as freshman Sparks has been the dominant girl runner in the North this fall, unbeaten in all of her Nevada 4A races (she was third at the Stanford Invitational). At the Carson Invitational earlier this month, she was more than one minute ahead of Galena's Tatyana Tibaduiza, the reigning zone champion.
"If Shanna continues to do what she's been doing all season, she'll be a winner," Macy said.
Only a freshman, Sparks seemed calmed on the eve of her biggest prep race to date.
"I'm not too nervous for zone, but I'll be nervous for state," Sparks said.
A wild card for Carson is Prunty, a junior out for her first season of cross country after having run the 800 for the Carson track team last spring. If the race comes down to a kick, Prunty will have one of the best sprints to the finish.
"I'm excited since it's my first year of cross country," said Prunty, who has defeated everyone in zone except for Sparks, Tibaduiza, and Douglas' Rebecca Pope. "We'll work on staying in front of the McQueen girls as we know they run together."
While matching the success of the 1990 team sounded like a good goal for the Carson runners, Nourse put it in perspective for the Senator athletes of today.
"(That) was a long time ago," Nourse said. "I was 7 years old and hadn't even started running then."
Neither of the Douglas teams are expected to contend for a title, but that doesn't mean the Tigers will be heading into the races without aspirations on the individual level.
Sophomores Pope and Darren Muren each has the opportunity to qualify for the state meet as an individual runner, according to Douglas coach Ellen Lucas.
"Rebecca definitely has the best shot at making it to state," Lucas said when asked about the Douglas girls. "She'll probably be the second individual qualifier behind Tatyana Tibaduiza.
"Shanna Sparks should win it, but I think Rebecca can be right in there in third."
The coach added that Muren has a "realistic outside chance" of advancing to state.
"He's got to beat some people, but he's been right up there in the top 20," Lucas said. "If he really runs a great race, I think he can be one of those top five. I think he has it in his mind that it's doable."
Tiger freshman Taryn Joyce-Mendive also has a chance to make it to state, Lucas said. Joyce-Mendive consistently has been the second Tiger across the line this season.
"I would say she has an outside shot," Lucas said. "She's been right up there right behind Rebecca. She usually is able to keep an eye on Rebecca. I'm sure that helps her."
Betsy Carlson, Krista Edling, Chelsea Rowe and Becky Koepnick will also run for the Douglas girls. Kim Smith will probably be the seventh DHS runner, while Andi Villasenor and Katie Allen will run the junior varsity race.
Collin Muren, Darren's twin brother, has been a strong No. 2 runner behind his brother all season. He'll likely need his run his best race of the year to qualify for state, but it's not out of the realm of possibility, Lucas said.
Sophomores Michael Hackler, Josh Daddabbo and Brandon Angues and junior Andrew Hines will give the Tigers a core of young runners who can look toward the zone tournament for valuable experience to call on in the future.
Freshman Tyler Hines and senior Michael Goldwater are battling for the seventh position.
Notes: Junior varsity races are also scheduled for today, with the boys starting at 1 p.m. and the girls at 1:30 The Carson girls are looking for their third consecutive state academic championship with their cumulative 3.89 GPA; the boys have a 3.50 GPA.