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Cross Country: Pahrump Valley rounding into postseason form

Senior Grant Odegard covered Veterans Memorial Park’s 5,000-meter course in 17 minutes, 57.5 seconds to finish sixth and lead the Pahrump Valley High School boys cross country team to a solid sixth-place finish in the Varsity A small schools race at the Lake Mead Invitational on Saturday in Boulder City.

It was a good day overall for the Trojans, who placed all six runners among the top 80 in the 117-runner field, including senior Renaldo Flores (43rd, 20:26.8), freshman Vincent Martinez (51st, 20:49.1), senior Andrew Hope (53rd, 20:55.8), senior Keegan Thomie (56th, 20:58.8) and senior Ramon Yabra (80th, 22:23.1).

While the Pahrump Valley girls lacked a top-10 lead runner, four of them placed in the top half of the field, led by sophomores Arianna Hamilton (27th, 25:16.2) and Hillary Valencia Vidales (29th, 25:43.7). Right behind were seniors Kaydance Hagerstrand (31st, 26:40.3) and Nrsringa Breathwaite (32nd, 26:40.8).

“We are getting better, and as the season comes to crunch time I think our athletes are getting themselves in the right position to compete,” Pahrump Valley coach Erik Odegard said. “With so many athletes new to distance running this year, we have had to try a few different techniques to teach them pacing and racing simultaneously.”

With the Class 3A Southern Regionals less than a month away, the Trojans, who have a lot of seniors, but few with cross country experience, have been rounding into form, using different meets in different ways to prepare for the postseason.

“We took the top seven boys and top seven girls to Flagstaff, Arizona for a meet,” Erik Odegard said. “This was designed to compete at elevation with state being in Reno this year. The kids ran at over 7,000 feet, and they all talked about the difficulty in breathing at the elevation. Times were good considering the course.”

A few days later, the Trojans ran in a weekday meet at Durango High School against the Trailblazers and Bishop Gorman, and while the Gaels crushed the field, Grant Odegard beat out Gorman freshman Andrew Specht by 5 seconds to finish first on the 3,000-meter course.

“The weekday meet at Durango was a 3K and so times were fast again,” Erik Odegard said. “We are using these meets to work on specific parts of the race, not just to go out and run but to key in on different attributes of the race, speeding up at specific times in the race or trying to run with somebody different pushing ourselves in some places and maybe just holding to a pace at other points.”

The last Saturday of September brought the Falcon Invitational at Foothill High School, the first 5,000-meter race since the Palo Verde Labor Day Classic four weeks earlier, allowing the Trojans again to work on specific things during a race. Between that and the Lake Mead Invitational, a weekday meet Oct. 2 at Silverado saw the Trojans place five runners among the top 11 against the host school and Desert Oasis.

After the solid showing at the Lake Mead Invitational, run on the same course as the region championships, the Trojans would appear to be progressing smoothly toward the postseason.

“Athletes are finding their groove and which groups they need to be attaching themselves to during the races,” Erik Odegard said. “Again, all of this is practice, and I think the kids are really picking up on the concepts because it really comes down to just one day at regionals to see if they can put it all together.”

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