Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter
Both having just returned a few weeks ago from injury and neither yet at full strength, Janae Derley and Piper Crook decided the best strategy for them individually was to work together at last Friday’s Northern 3A Cross Country Meet.
As a result, they’ll be traveling together this week, to the State meet in Boulder City.
Derley finished 10th overall and was the fourth individual qualifier for the State meet with a time of 21:30 in last Friday’s regional meet, while Crook came in 15thoverall and was the fifth individual qualifier.
The state meet will be run Saturday at Veterans Memorial Park in Boulder City. Live results from the meet will be posted at https://live.nts-timing.com/meets/1594.
Both Derley and Crook were injured early in the season and missed the first few meets, and are still not back to full strength.
Crook suffered a broken bone in the top of her foot while playing soccer at cross country camp before the season, while Derley landed awkwardly while running on a hill and suffered a pulled hip flexor.
Derley missed the first four meets of the season, while Crook returned three weeks before the regional meet, and had barely a month to get close enough to peak condition to try to make their returns to the state meet.
“They hung in there and were smart about healing up,” coach Todd Wright said. “They continued doing strength training with us through their injuries, which I believe helped.”
For Derley, a junior, this will be her second time at the state meet, while Crook, a senior, will be making her third trip to state.
But it was very much up in the air before for most of the season whether either would be able to get into form well enough to get back to state.
After an offseason of training, Crook was running four minutes faster than last year when she was injured, but just two weeks ago, feeling she wasn’t going to be able to get back to top shape, Crook had what she described as a meltdown. But she said Wright soothed her through it, although she said she was still nervous before Friday’s race and still can’t bend her big toe.
“It’s my senior year so I was super upset I got injured,” Crook said. “It was a struggle and I was really frustrated.”
That’s why she suggested to Derley that they run together to start the race. They stayed together for much of the course, until Derley turned on her finishing kick. Derley said they encouraged each other throughout the course, telling each other they had to pass the next runner in front of them.
“I love running with Janae,” Crook said. “She’s fun.”
Derley likewise was frustrated with dealing with her injury, and said she still feels pain in her hip.
“Coach was real good about making sure I didn’t run to hard or reinjure myself,” Derley said.
Both runners were excited to find out they’d qualified for state. Derley knew at the finish she had placed well enough to make it, but Crook wasn’t sure if she had, and was emotional when she saw she did.
“I just wanted to cry,” Crook said. “I feel like me and Janae both needed this.”
“I wanted to make state and prove to myself I could do it even though I had a rough start,” Derley said.
Now that they’ve made the state meet, both said the pressure is off and they will be more confident running this Saturday.
“I feel like State is not as stressful because you’ve made it and earned it, so it’s just no regrets,” Derley said. “It’s motivating, because around school people will come up and say, ‘I heard you make it to State.’”
The Fernley girls team came close to qualifying as a team, finishing fourth overall with 108 points. Spring Creek ran away with the team title with 25 points, with their five scorers all finishing in the top 11, including four in the top eight. Truckee was second with 51 points, and Elko finished third with 97.
Paitin Smith finished 32nd for the Vaqueros with a time of 25:27, Baylee Ringer was 35th in 25:59 and Tyeese Ledesma-Hames was the fifth scorer with a time of 26:29. Other runners were Chanel Patrick, who was 41st in 27:55 and Naveah Ledesma, who came in 42nd in 28:14.
The boys team finished seventh, with no state qualifiers.
Antonio Rodarte was the top finisher for Fernley, finishing 23rd in a time of 19:27. Morgan Zolyniak was 35th in 20:25, Rylan Roth came in 37th in 20:46, Connie Hunter finished 40th in 21:20, Andrew LaVallie came in 41st in 21:26, Liam Maldonado finished 43rd in 21:35 and Ricky Starr finished 49th in 22:48.
The boys team is a young one, with two juniors, three sophomores and two freshmen.
“They all ran really well and can be a foundation for a great team in the next year or two,” Wright said. “Tony Rodarte ran super and was one spot from qualifying for state.”