These girls love to run | RecordCourier.com

These girls love to run

by Chuck Smock

Kathleen McSweeney, Kelly Mogab, Annie Gastelum, Jenny Smokey and Jenelle Timmons make up the core of what could be the most dominant sports team Douglas High has seen in years.

The quintet led the Tigers to a second-place finish at the state cross country meet last season. And they haven’t done anything this year to make anyone think they’ll have a problem improving on that result.

The Tigers have won five of the six races they have entered this season when everyone was healthy. They finished second at the Oakmont Invitational in Rocklin, Calif., in a meet that featured some of the best high school runners from California and Nevada.

Last weekend, they won the South Tahoe Relays on Friday and then flew to Las Vegas, where they obliterated the field Saturday at the Indian Springs Invitational. On Wednesday, they placed four runners in the top five and blew away three other teams at a conference race in Fallon.

The Douglas squad might have a hard time finding suitable competition in races, but the same isn’t true in practice.

“We all work really hard in practice, we push each other and we run well together,” said McSweeney, who finished fifth overall at the state last year to lead the Tigers. “Finishing second at state made our anticipation grow even more. It gave us more confidence and made us work harder because we wanted it more.

“I’m really proud of our team. I can’t wait to show off what we’ve got this year.”

Head coach Ellen Lucas said her team’s results this season haven’t been that surprising. Despite the fact that everyone else on the course knows the Tigers are one of the favorites to win the state championship, the Douglas runners manage to maintain their focus and run away with titles.

“They’re doing pretty much what I expected them to do,” Lucas said. “They’re running hard. They’re training hard. They are just a great group. They are very motivated.”

Douglas defeated Cheyenne, which won the state title last season, by 50 points in Las Vegas last weekend.

“After the meet, I told the girls that Green Valley looked stronger this year and they said, ‘Well, we’re stronger too,'” Lucas said. “They are confident they are in control of the situation. They have high expectations for themselves and each other.”

Melissa Nichols has run really well this season and has a solid grasp on the Tigers’ No. 6 position, Lucas said. Christene Timmons, Lauren Olivas, Katy Lees and Rebecca Pope are in the running each week to compete in the No. 7 spot, according to the coach.

Mogab said one of the keys to the Tigers’ success has been the camaraderie she and her teammates share.

“I think we’re really strong, but we still have to work hard,” Mogab said. “We push each other along in races. It really helps to have a teammate running beside you.”

Gastelum, who was crowned Homecoming queen Friday at the football game after teaming with fellow seniors McSweeney, Mogab and Smokey to win the South Tahoe Relays and before leaving to run in Las Vegas, said being good friends with her teammates makes practicing more fun and winning races even sweeter.

“We’re all really close,” Gastelum said. “We’re all kind of different personalities, but I think we all have the same mind-set when it comes to running. We’re all determined and we all put in our 100 percent.

“We’ve been thinking about state since it finished last year. It’s easy to say we can win state, but it’s going to take a lot of hard work to do it.

“It’s definitely within reach, though.”

Smokey, too, says the focus is on qualifying for, and running well at, the state meet.

“I think we are the best team in the state,” Smokey said. “We all push each other and we should be peaking around state.

“I think we can win state. I think we will win state.”

The Record-Courier E-mail: rc@tahoe.com

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