Aim for the red.
That's the strategy the Carson High School cross country team members will employ today as they attempt to outrun the red uniforms of the thinclads from Reno High at the Carson Invitational at Fuji Park. The meet begins at 3:30 p.m., with the girls varsity race set for 4 and the boys varsity race taking off at 4:30.
"There's only one team we haven't beaten this season - Reno High," said Carson coach Jason Macy. "It'll be tough, a real battle."
The Senator runners know who to keep an eye on in the boys race, which is expected to feature the top teams in Northern Nevada, as each school prepares for the Oct. 28 zone meet.
"The coaches say 'when you see red, you've got to get 'em," said Carson's No. 1 runner Darryl Nourse following Thursday's practice. "It feels good when you pick one of their runners off."
The fact that the Senator harriers can even talk about running with Reno in today's meet shows how far the team has improved since its first big invitational this fall at Reed High, when much of the team sat out due to illness. Since then, Carson has moved through Northern Nevada's pack of teams to become a serious contender for zone along with Reno and South Tahoe on the boys side and Reno and McQueen on the girls side.
With the team on the upswing, the toughest chore these days for Macy and co-coach Mike Longero has been deciding who will run on the varsity team and who will run junior varsity.
"We have a large team with 45 runners - we have kids on JV who would be running varsity at another school," Macy said.
Carson's boys varsity team today is likely to include Nourse, Jeff Young, Evan Fischer, Josh Branco, Blake Baldwin, Paul Capistrant and Sergio Calvillo; the girls will run with Shanna Sparks, Caitlin Prunty, Megan Zahnter, Carrie Stair, Heather Beaudette and Katy Hoffman.
Longero said the Carson girls should do well if the team's No. 2 through No. 5 runners can finish within 30 seconds of each other.
"We're going to push the serious group concept," Longero said.
Although a team victory is a priority in today's 3.1-mile race at Fuji Park, which includes the infamous "Mt. Fuji" hill, the Senators have a good chance of winning some individual titles as well.
After taking third at the prestigious Stanford Invitational last Saturday, freshman Sparks is one of the favorites in the girls varsity race. Her competition is likely to come from Galena's Tatyana Tibaduiza.
Sparks said her performance at the Stanford Invitational gave her some added confidence.
"I was nervous about (today's) race before, but after running against the California girls, I'm not too nervous," said Sparks, who outran Tibaduiza in a race covering eight kilometers last fall.
Nourse, whom Macy described as "incredibly improved" over last season, should be among the leaders in the boys race. He's won three-way meets this season but is still looking for his first invitational victory.
"I'm excited for it," Nourse said of today's race over Carson's home course. "There's one guy from Galena and one from Lowry I'll be looking for. I'll hang off the leaders and see what happens."