Douglas runners look for fast times |

Douglas runners look for fast times

The Douglas High boys cross country team, from left, Bryan Harris, Lars Ponsness, Patrick Voss, Sean Dunkelman, Andrew Voss, John Munyan, Danner Hillman and coach Jay Frey celebrate their third-place finish last Friday at the Northern 4A Region Championships in Sparks. The Tigers run again Saturday at thestate meet in North Las Vegas.
Bud Hillman |

Led by a nucleus of four senior veterans, the Douglas High boys cross country team is heading south in hopes of closing out its season on a high note Saturday at the NIAA State Championships in North Las Vegas.

Qualifying runners from the Northern and Southern region meets last Friday are scheduled for an 11 a.m. start at Craig Ranch Regional Park.

Douglas, coming off a third-place finish at the Northern 4A meet, has an ample supply of experience in big races with a lineup of seniors that includes John Munyan, running in his fourth state meet, Lars Ponsness and Danner Hillman in their third and Bryan Harris in his second. Munyan placed third and Ponsness 25th at last year’s state meet in Reno.

So, how do the Tigers rate on paper? Spanish Springs and defending state champion McQueen went 1-2 in the North last week, while Green Valley and Arbor View dominated their respective Sunrise and Sunset region meets. The Southern times were considerably faster — Daniel Ziems of Palo Verde won the 5,000-meter Sunset Region race in 15:37, Omar Rubio of Green Valley won the Sunrise race in 16:02 and McQueen’s Henry Weisberg won in the North with a time of 16:40. Overall, Green Valley had six runners dip under 17 minutes and Arbor View had five.

Now, stop to consider that the Northern runners competed under rainy and muddy conditions on a hilly three-lap course at Shadow Mountain Sports Complex, not to mention the 4,700-foot altitude. The weather forecast Saturday in Las Vegas calls for a high of 82 degrees, with no rain and 35 percent humidity.

Oh, and one other thing: State championships are never decided on paper.

“It’s tough to tell,” Douglas coach Jay Frey assessed of the race. “Arbor View, Green Valley, and Palo Verde are all running pretty tight team-races … and dropping some solid times. That course is going to be fast (on Saturday).”

Weisberg, the defending state individual champion, leads a field that features eight returnees from last year’s state top-10.

Munyan placed second behind Weisberg at the region meet (16:55) and ran his season best time of 15:52 for 5,000 meters at the Clovis Invitational in Fresno a month ago. Munyan is also the reigning state champion for 1,600 meters on the track (4:26 at altitude).

The Tigers had their next four scoring runners finish 21 seconds apart — Patrick Voss (18:17), Andrew Voss (18:20), Sean Dunkelman (18:20) and Hillman (18:31). Patrick Voss, a sophomore, ran in only his second race this season after recovering from a stress fracture.