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NEVADA COUNTY, Calif. January 31, 2021 – A beautiful Saturday was the setting for the region’s first high school sporting event in 10 months as Nevada Union hosted its 58th Annual Cross Country Invitational.  Seven high schools competed in the meet, including Bear River, Colfax, Forest Lake Christian, Lincoln, Placer, Whitney, and the host, Nevada Union.  With masks and social distancing rules maintained, the harriers prepared themselves for the challenging three-mile course.  

The event began with the freshman/sophomore and junior varsity girls. Freshman Jessie Slade from Nevada Union was determined from the gun, as she accumulated a large lead in the first mile which propelled her to the victory in a time of 22:07 seconds for the three-mile course. Other top performers in the frosh/soph and junior varsity girls race included Sophomore Mariana Blanding (Whitney) who finished in second with a time of 22:26, and Freshman Sophie Bowen (Whitney), who turned in a performance good for third in a time of 22:57. Following them was Rachel Tajiri (Whitney, Junior, 24:02) for fourth, and Olivia Sauer (Whitney, Senior, 24:02) for fifth. On the team side, Whitney placed first, as their runners nearly swept the race, placing second through seventh.

Nevada Union’s Jessie Slade held a commanding lead in winning the frosh/soph/JV girl’s race.

Next up was the freshman/sophomore and junior varsity Boys. Whitney made their presence known in this race, as they placed one through seven, good for the team win and strong individual performances all around. Whitney’s James Bowen (Junior, 17:55), Nick Hermann (Sophomore, 18:00), and Brandon Olah (Junior, 18:11), placed one-two-three respectively. Teammates David Hurren (Freshman, 18:29) and Joel Tajiri (Freshman, 18:46) finished in fourth and fifth. Whitney scored a perfect fifteen points as a team in the victory. 

Following the conclusion of the freshman/sophomore and junior varsity races, it came time for the varsity events. First up was the varsity girls. In this race, young talent was on full display, as two Freshman asserted themselves strongly into the top three. In first place, Whitney Freshman Angeline Gutierrez ran away from the field to earn herself a convincing victory in a time of 19:12. Coming in next was Lincoln Junior Peyton Derepentigny, who crossed the line in 19:28. Freshman Jade Biitner (Colfax) came in third in a time of 19:39. Ava Kopec of Whitney (Freshman, 19:54) and Leah Booth of Placer (Freshman, 20:31) finished in fourth and fifth respectively. On the team side, Whitney again reigned victorious, as they scored 34 points over Placer’s 52. 

The last race of the day was the varsity boys. As the race unfolded, there proved to be a battle up front, as Nevada Union’s Travis Selby (Senior) and Whitney’s Jason Finta (Senior) pulled away from the field as the race drew towards the finish line.

The boy’s varsity race was a tight battle throughout the 3-mile course, with Nevada Union senior Travis Selby pulling away late to secure the win.

In the end, Selby was able to kick to the finish line for the victory, in a time of 16:15, followed by Finta for second (16:18). Byron Chadwick of Whitney was not too far behind, as he crossed the line in third position in a time of 16:22. Next was Jaden Trujillo (Lincoln, Sophomore, 16:27) for fourth, and Wyatt Hamilton (Placer, Junior, 16:40) for fifth. Whitney completed the sweep of team victories, finishing with 34 points once again.        

Current COVID youth sports guidelines laid out by the state of California require masks at all events and practices except for athletes competing in a limited number of non-contact sports. 

All schools at the event were within Nevada and Placer counties, both of which are currently in the purple tier regarding COVID positivity rate.  High school cross country is one of the few sports allowed by California’s guidelines in this tier.  Saturday marked the beginning of a modified season that is scheduled to run through March.