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2006 Nike Team Nationals - South Preview

Newcomer Tupelo MS girls, media hits at home, join veterans Carroll Southlake TX and The Woodlands TX

Dec. 1, 2006 Portland OR

by John Sullivan, South region editor

The Woodlands TX - Carroll Southlake TX boys - Carroll Southlake TX girls - Tupelo MS


This is The Woodlands' 2nd trip to NTN, having finished a commendable 7th in the inaugural 2004 event.

After suffering an early season 1 point loss at Texas A&M on September 16th, the Highlanders started to roll as they returned to full strength and settled on a top 7. A big win at Nike South on October 7th over 7 South ranked teams confirmed that they were the team to beat. A 17-point loss to a very strong Potosi MO squad at Chile Pepper the following week was disappointing, but reaffirmed the team’s national-caliber potential. The subsequent inter-squad 3200 meter time trial on the track, with sr Alex Neff clocking 9:12 and 11 others dipping under 10:00 (without #2 man Evan Blair), was another confidence booster. And the school season culminated with the Texas state 5A crown, a record 13th title, and 3rd in the last 4 years.

“We want to make this (NTN bid) a habit,” said long-time mentor Coach Dan Green. “The boys have a tremendous challenge before them and will need to be at their best. There are plenty of distractions this week and the teams that keep their focus will be the ones that do well.”

Alex Neff, 12, state meet 9th 15:43.85 for 5000m
Evan Blair, 12, state 12th 15:47.45
Bryan Downey, 12, state 18th 15:57.25
Dominick Zucconi, 12, state 26th 16:09.05
Connor Reed, 10, state 33rd 16:16.15
Quinn Valentine, 11, state 42nd 16:21.85
Drew Butler, 10, state 52nd 16:33.25

CARROLL XC BOYS CLUB (Southlake Carroll, TX)

Returns to Nike Team Nationals after a 14th place showing in 2004.

With 3 of the top 10 returnees from the Texas state meet and 5 in all, Southlake Carroll had high expectations heading into the 2006 campaign. And they lived up to those expectations, including a win at Texas A&M (95-96 over The Woodlands), followed by 2nd in a loaded field at Nike South. Led by jr Colby Lowe, a Foot Locker finalist and state 3200 champ in 9:05, the Dragons produced a silver medal performance at the Texas state 5A meet. Lowe capped off an undefeated school season with the state individual crown, besting defending champ and fellow Foot Locker finalist Duncan Phillips.

“They’re ready for this,” said Carroll Coach Robert Ondrasek. The team worked hard through Foot Locker South, with Colby Lowe earning a return trip to San Diego. “The kids will feel more rested this week. Chris Moore (who missed the early season with injuries) could have a big race – he’s been training well. And our normal #5, Ahmed Toure, should bounce back from a hard fall at state.”

Colby Lowe, 11, state meet 1st 15:05.15 for 5000m
CJ Brown, 10, state 3rd 15:22.85
Chris Moore, 12, state 19th 15:57.35
Richard Grue, 12, state 28th 16:11.20
Evan Garner, 10, state 70th 16:49.80
Kyle Ondrasek, 11, state 90th 17:11.55
Ahmed Toure, 10, state 108th 18:27.15


CARROLL XC GIRLS CLUB (Southlake Carroll, TX)

This squad has made NTN all 3 years, one of only 6 teams (4 girls and 2 boys) that can make that claim.

The season turned into a race against time (no pun intended) for the Carroll Lady Dragons. It could have been a rebuilding year, after graduating team leaders and 2-time Foot Locker finalists, Miranda Walker and Brooke Upshaw (3-4 at NTN last year) from the NTN bronze medal squad. With early season aches and pains plaguing the team, the line-up was a revolving door week-to-week, and Coach Robert Ondrasek said, “We are pretty banged up right now....but November is when we need to be on.” Finishing 2nd at Texas A&M and 3rd at Nike South, without the full top 7, kept them within striking range as they continued to train hard and attempted to get healthy. After losing tight battles to local rival Keller (the eventual South #3) at District and Region, they struck gold in the Texas state 5A race – with a full squad, and in November when they “needed to be on.” With soph Tara Upshaw, 23rd as a freshman, and 3 other girls running NTN for the 3rd time, this is a talented and experienced team that should not be overlooked.

“The team trained hard through Foot Locker South, and should be ready this week. But it’s still a bit day-to-day, as we’re still not 100%,” said Coach Ondrasek. “It’s been a long season, but they deserve this – it’s a nice way to finish up.”

Tara Upshaw, 10, state meet 3rd 11:04.40 for 3200 meters
Taylor Stephens, 11, state 24th 11:40.70
Christina Ferber, 12, state 26th 11:42.20
Kirsten Brown, 12, state 34th 11:48.50
Emily Denny, 12, state 49th 11:58.45
Caitlin Gilbert, 10, state 64th 12:07.40
Hannah Brown, 9, state 86th 12:25.00

Tupelo XC Club (Tupelo, MS)

The girls from Tupelo, birthplace of Elvis, are a jewel in a state which isn’t exactly known as a hotbed of high school distance running. Only 1 Mississippi girl has ever run in Foot Locker Nationals, along with 1 boy. But the Lady Waves aren’t fazed by all that, as they racked up their 6th consecutive state title, with 21 points.

Tupelo sought out the best competition it could find, finishing 3rd at Great American, sandwiched between highly-regarded NTN qualifiers Midlothian VA and Tatnall DE. They also blitzed the fields at Memphis Twilight and at Chile Pepper. Along the way, this deep squad had 5 different girls lead the way, including former state individual champs Emily Crow and Claire Corban, both seniors.

The end result – a coveted NTN bid! And it hasn’t gone unnoticed.  “A local tv station did a live remote broadcast from the airport at 5:30am as the team departed for Portland. The local paper had a 3-page spread and is sending a reporter to NTN,” said proud father Lynn Holland. And along with a 2nd Foot Locker qualifier this year (Pass Christian MS fr Cory McGee), the team is helping to change the perception (and reality) of running in its part of the country.

“We’re prepared. We’ve run in some mud and rain to get ready for the conditions,” said Coach Nathan Hall. “We’ve participated in enough big races this year that we shouldn’t freak out if we’re not in the front.”

Katherine Steinman, 8, state meet 2nd 15:03.78 for 4000 meters
Maggie McFerrin, 10, state 3rd 15:09.44
Emily Crow, 12, state 4th 15:18.16
Claire Corban, 12, state 5th 15:22.17
Jana Mason, 12, state 7th 15:49.17
Catherine Holman, 8, state 9th 16:09.10
Maria Holland, 10, state 19th 17:13.05

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