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Fighting Zebras cross country off to Tahoe

Preseason camping trip triggers runner’s bonding
By: Jim Linsdau News Messenger Sports Editor
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A number of the approximately 40 runners out for the Lincoln High School cross country team packed their gym bags and took off for Tahoe early this week for a few days of camping, running, beach time, and bonding. Head coach Doug Croall, now in his sixth year with the program, said he’s happy with the numbers that have turned out this season. He said, typically the Fighting Zebras get about 25 runners, but he has almost that many on the boy’s squad this year. Croall wasn’t certain why his numbers increased this year, although planning trips to Tahoe, and scheduling a meet in San Francisco might have had some influence. “I’m not sure what it is,” said Croall, but suggested two possible reasons. “They enjoyed their experience last year, and the middle schools have done a good job of promoting the sport.” Croall said he had a big influx of freshman runners join the squad, and more coming in this season. He does have some returning lettermen; Lincoln placed third for both boys and girls at the Sac-Joaquin Section championships in 2010. His frosh/soph girls were runners up, and the freshman boys were third. Croall said his best freshman runner from last season actually ran varsity. Croall said his schedule for preseason invitational meets was still being decided, but the team’s annual trip to the Bay Area for the Lowell Invitational during week two was in the book. “One we’ve been doing the last few years in particular they really like is in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.” Croall said of the Lowell meet. “We do it early in the season when it’s hot in the valley and we get out where it’s cool.” The trip is an overnight stay for the team, and they all dine out together the night before the event. Croall expects Placer High School to be strong again in the Pioneer Valley League. They dominated last year, as in the past, but Croall feels the second spot in the league could be wide open. Last year the runner up for the girls was Bear River, and Center was second for the boys. Placer is coached by Randall Fee, who is in his 10th year of coaching the Hillmen. He has compiled an impressive record at Placer with four section championships, and a state title for the girls in 2004. Fee said he feels his club will be strong again with over 50 runners on the roster, but doesn’t expect the rest of the PVL to roll over. “I think some of the schools are getting stronger. Bear River’s numbers are up significantly this year due to a new coach,” Fee said. “Doug (Croall) does an excellent job. He has good numbers.” Fee said his squad also likes running on Lincoln’s home course near Twelve Bridges, a part of the outdoor learning environment. Lincoln will host this year’s league meet. The Zebras are wrapping up their summer conditioning and will be soon working out in earnest in preparation for the 2011 cross country campaign. Meanwhile, they’ll enjoy the fruits of their labors. “It’s literally a camp; we’re camping,” said Croall as to their Tahoe trip. “Camping, campfires, run twice a day, we’ll just have some fun. A little bit of beach time and just hang out together.” E-mail News Messenger Sports at jiml@goldcountrymedia.com