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Consistency, depth were key for VOL’s co-champion Sierra

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Sierra High junior Amber Parker is the Bulletin's 2009 girls cross country Runner of the Year.


POSTED December 20, 2009 7:10 p.m.

Amber Parker may or may not have been the best female runner at Sierra High during the cross country season.

If she wasn’t, then who was?

That mattered little to the youth-laden Timberwolves, who stunned Sonora by stealing a piece of the Valley Oak League championship — the sixth in program history — at Legion Park in Modesto on Oct. 28.

Sierra lacked the star power that individual VOL champ Lizzie Groelle and freshman state qualifier Samantha Smith provided Sonora. But with up to six runners capable of leading the team at a given meet, Sierra arguably was the deepest.

Parker, lauded by head coach Anthony Chapman as the team’s most consistent runner, said that each Timberwolf thrived off the success of the other. The Bulletin’s All-Area Female Runner of the Year was the first or second Sierra harrier to race past the finish line in all but one race.

“Everybody was happy when somebody else succeeded,” Parker said. “It brought us closer but it also helped us push each other to get better.”

The highlight of the season for Sierra was undoubtedly the VOL final. Sonora was in position to claim the title outright after blowing out the Timberwolves in the first cluster meet and edging them out in the second.

Sonora’s top four runners — Grolle, Smith, Kimberlee Turner and Mercedes Langfeldt — cruised through the chute 1-2-3-4 as expected.

Katelyn Carbiener, Parker and freshman Analisa Honour grabbed the next three spots for Sierra in that order to earn all-league honors. The difference-makers were Jessica Montiel and Francis Scherry, who placed ninth and 10th. Sonora’s fifth runner, Madeline Dragun, was 35th.

Final score: Sierra 37, Sonora 45.

“It was amazing,” Parker said. “They had their first four runners in before any of us came in, so they thought they already had it won.”

Sierra had four different runners lead the way in various meets. Montiel was the team’s top finisher in leading the team to the small-schools championship in the Lagoon Valley Classic, and Parker paved the way to its title run in its own Sierra Invitational.

Jenny Goulart, Sierra’s lone senior, led the Timberwolves in the first VOL meet and in the Sac-Joaquin Subsection Division III race at Frogtown.

Sierra’s season ended in disappointing fashion at the subsection meet, where it finished ninth — one place away from advancing to the section meet. Parker had her worst performance of the season, taking 53rd overall.

That didn’t keep the girls from making an appearance, however. They made the trip to Folsom to support teammate John Bowers’ quest to qualify for the California Interscholastic Federation State Championships.

“We were pretty disappointed because we expected ourselves to go farther,” Parker said. “But we all still went just to support our teammates and we had a good time.

“Hopefully make it to sections next time, and if we continue to get better maybe even state. We’ll see.”

With all but senior Goulart returning — including sophomores Scherry and Montiel, freshman Honour and juniors Parker and Carbiener — Sierra should again challenge Sonora for the VOL title with a better chance at making the section meet.

Montiel and Parker led Sierra to subsection and section Division III titles at the frosh-soph level last year.

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