Scottsbluff boys, Gering girls ready to run for state meet success
     2012-10-19      By Terry Gaston   
Photo by Ken Kurtz/Spectrum Photo Gering Cross Country runners from left, Rachel Huffman, Dakota Gellner, Damaris Martinez, and Marisa Robles start strong at the Gering Invitational meet earlier in the season. 
Most of the attention on cross country in western Nebraska this season has rightfully been directed toward the Scottsbluff boys’ team and their highly favored bid to win a third straight Class B state championship.

However, the Gering girls have their own mission for the state meet on Friday in Kearney after the Bulldogs just missed winning the District B-4 team championship by two points.

Led by the sixth-place district finish of senior Rachel Huffman, Gering also had top-15 finishers in sophomore Kali Rimington in ninth and freshman Marisa Robles in 13th in leading the Bulldogs to their second-place total of 45 points at Ogallala.

Lexington, with individual champion Vanessa Ambriz leading the way, took the team title with 43 points.

“The girls ran a great race,” Gering girls’ coach Caleigh Barker said. “As a coach, you couldn’t ask for a better performance. You could tell from their warmups and the week’s events that they were ready. This is such a determined group of girls.”

Huffman, Rimington, seniors Dakota Gellner and 2010 sixth-place state medalist Damaris Martinez, and freshman Hadley Kirk have the Bulldogs looking to make their mark in the pack on Friday.

“Every single one of the girls raced well and they ran well for each other,” Barker said. “I think one thing is that Gering really prepares these kids from the start of the season. Some people want to just go to state, but we want to compete and we are getting them ready to have one more good race. State should be their best effort of the season.”

Also competing in the Class B girls’ race is Scottsbluff sophomore Taylor Muncie, who earned a return trip by finishing in third at districts.

Other girls competing at state include Bayard freshman Montana Belford, who finished third in the District D-5 meet in Grant, and Banner County junior Amanda Harrison, a third-time state qualifier after she finished ninth in the district race.

Barker’s dad, Jim Barker, has the Scottsbluff boys running fantastically for their bid in becoming three-time team champions.

The Bearcats captured five of the top six spots at the District B-4 boys’ event in Ogallala, led by sophomore Matthew Barraza in first and junior Anthony Parra in second. Junior Brendan Taedter finished fourth and senior Tayler James was fifth in totaling Scottsbluff’s nearly perfect team score of 12 points.

But the Bearcats weren’t done making noise in the individual standings when junior Ben Willis-Teff came in sixth and senior Justin Pritchard placed eighth.

All six Scottsbluff runners ran within a minute of each other, led by Barraza’s 16-minute winning time and capped with Pritchard’s clocking of 16:57. Parra was seven seconds behing Barraza with his runner-up finish.

The Bearcats have three returning state medalists in Parra, who was third last year; Barraza, who placed fourth; and Pritchard, who took seventh.

Gering qualified two individuals for state, with sophomore Michael Mapes finishing 11th in the district race and junior Aaron Pierce coming in 12th.

Mitchell junior Tate Harvey and junior Levi Avila led the Tigers to a third-place team finish in the District C-5 competition. Harvey placed eighth and Avila came in 11th, just eight seconds apart.

Other Tigers making the trip to state under coach Mike Harriger are senior Jeemy Carrizales, junior Luis Panduro, and freshmen Edward Grentz and Chase Watson.

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