From the lush scenery at Las Vegas’ Sunset Park to the arid desert in Casa Grande, Arizona, local runner Zach Noonan has conquered some of the United States’ premier cross country running trails.
The 14 year-old recently participated in a two-week cross country tour of the United States, hosted by Sports Travel Australia.
Zach was one of 35 other Australians on the trip, including coaches and parents, and was accompanied by his mum, Debbie Gazzara.
Departing Australia on September 20 and arriving back in Deniliquin on Wednesday, Debbie described it as a ‘‘trip of a lifetime’’.
‘‘Zach has a passion for running and he made lifelong friends on the trip — it was amazing,’’ she said.
Zach’s first race on September 23 was held at Sunset Park in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Despite battling the flu and only having his wrist plaster removed the week before, the Deni teenager performed strongly, finishing 62nd out of 148 runners in the 5km course.
Three days later, Zach took on the home course of Coronado High School’s cross country team at Sonata Park, Nevada which Debbie said was ‘‘all uphill’’.
After leaving Las Vegas, the group headed four hours west to California’s Williams High School, where the combined team — consisting of three Americans and three Australians — claimed gold.
‘‘As well as the cross country meets, the kids also had training runs and stretching session most days,’’ Debbie said.
From there the group competed in Casa Grande, Arizona.
Competing in the open grade, Debbie said Zach was ‘‘very competitive’’, finishing mid-field.
‘‘This course was the most overwhelming of all — it was 39 degrees and there were just thousands of people everywhere,’’ Debbie said.
‘‘There were more than 6000 people in a couple of races and there was a football field packed with school marquees.
‘‘The PSSA carnivals we have in Sydney are nothing compared to this.’’
Returning home on Wednesday, the trip is expected to place Zach in good shape for the upcoming local cross country season, which kicks off this school term.