SPARKS - There was no gold for Carson High School during the running of the NIAA/U.S. Bank State Cross Country Championships, just smiles from some solid performances in both the girls' and boys' races Saturday morning at Reed High School.
Shanna Sparks ran to second place in the girls' race to help Carson capture fourth as a team. In the boys' race, Daryl Nourse and Evan Fischer placed fourth and ninth, respectively, to help the Senators finish sixth in the team standings.
"The kids ran great," Carson coach Jason Macy said. "That fourth by the girls ... to come back after being third at zone and then take fourth at state, that was fabulous."
Sparks wound up second with a time of 19 minutes 33 seconds over the 5,000-meter course, but on this day, the Carson freshman wasn't able to deny Abby Miller in her bid for history.
Miller concluded a perfect four-year run for Green Valley as she became Nevada's first four-time state cross country champion. She had been even with Reno High's Inga Thompson, an eventual U.S. Olympic cyclist, who won three straight girls' state titles between 1979 and '81.
Miller set a course record by running 18:51, 26 seconds faster than the record she set as a sophomore at the 1997 state meet). And in the process, she helped Green Valley win its first state team title, as the Gators scored 49 points to outdistance McQueen by 19 points for the title. There was no hesitation when Miller was asked which was more important to her.
"The first team (championship), no matter what," Miller said, flashing a wide smile. "This is something we've worked hard for together as a team.
"We don't put a lot of pressure on ourselves, we just go out and do the best we can every time. Our team motto is to run and have fun, and that's the way I like it. I love running and I love the sport and all the people who are involved in it," added Miller, an all-state academic recipient who says she plans to run at U.C. Irvine.
"For Abby to go out as the state champion, with a course record and on a state championship team is undescribable," said Green Valley coach Jeff Doyle, whose squad finished second at state behind Douglas last year.
Miller has some impressive credentials, including top-10 finishes at the Foot Locker national championships her freshman and junior years. Her 17:17 clocking earlier this season at the prestigious Mt. SAC Invitational in Southern California ranks as one of the 10 fastest ever run by a prep girl on that course.
Sparks tried to go with the fast pace, and even though she was 12:20 at the two-mile mark (28 seconds behind Miller), she maintained her focus and was never challenged for the second spot. She finished with a time that was six seconds faster than her gold-medal winning performance at the Northern 4A zone meet one week before on the same course.
Caitlin Prunty was Carson's second finisher, as the junior came in 18th with a time of 21:50, an improvement of 11 seconds from zone. Katy Hoffman finished 31st in 22:36, an improvement of 14 seconds. The most improved Senator was junior Heather Beaudette, who dropped her time by 57 seconds by running 24:08 to finish 42nd. Amy Martin was 48th in 23:20, an improvement of 15 seconds.
"Heather and Amy really stepped up for us today," Macy said.
Carson was awarded the state 4A girls' academic championship trophy for turning in a team 3.87 grade point average. Candace Beam, Carrie Stair, Bridgit Taylor, Beaudette, Hoffman and Martin are all 4.0 students.
Galena senior Tatyana Tibaduiza checked in fourth with a 20:31 clocking to earn all-state recognition, as did two Douglas runners who cracked the top 15: Rebecca Pope was 12th in 21:28 and freshman Taryn Mendive 14th in 21:40.
On the boys' side, Nourse finished fourth in 17:24, six seconds faster than he ran at zone last week.
"The start was pretty fast, I just went out and tried not to lose too much ground," Nourse said. "I tried to hang off of Brett (Ferrier of Lowry) and see if I could get him in the end."
Bonanza senior Cory Jeffers ran away with first-place in 16:39, just five seconds off the course record, followed by Northern 4A zone champ Ferrier in 17:04.
Fischer was ninth with a 17:44 effort than was 32 seconds faster than his zone time. It was an improvement from last year, when Fischer won at zone and then slipped to 25th at state.
"Cramps affected me last year; I got them again today, but I was able to run through them better," Fischer said. "My goal was to finish in the top five, but top 10 will do."
Paul Capistrant was 44th (18:47), Ryan Costella 48th (18:52) and Blake Baldwin 49th (18:56) to round out Carson's team scoring.
South Tahoe captured its first-ever state cross country title as the Vikings had five runners finish within one minute of each other to beat Basic by a 79-85 score.