Los Alamos boys, girls soar

On way to claim­ing ti­tles in Santa Fe, Hill­top­pers hand­ily out­race op­po­nents

Santa Fe New Mexican - - SPORTS - By James Bar­ron jbar­ron@sfnewmex­i­can.com

The Los Alamos cross-coun­try team found a way to in­ject a brief mo­ment of drama into what was an oth­er­wise mun­dane Fri­day af­ter­noon. For about 30 min­utes, the best boys and girls teams did not win the North­ern New Mex­ico Chal­lenge meet at the Mu­nic­i­pal Re­cre­ation Com­plex. While the Hill­top­pers and Lady Hill­top­pers dom­i­nated both var­sity races — the girls won with a 19-point to­tal, while the boys scored a 26-point ef­fort — what ev­ery­one saw on the course needed to be val­i­dated on pa­per. And the results card each team had to sub­mit to race of­fi­cials was miss­ing for Los Alamos. When the race results were posted, Los Alamos was not listed in the boys or girls team stand­ings.

“Oh yeah, our bad,” Los Alamos co-head coach Kathy Hip­wood said with a wry smile. “We were late turn­ing in the card.”

In the end, the drama abated as the Lady Hill­top­pers turned in the card show­ing they eas­ily out­paced Academy for Tech­nol­ogy and the Clas­sics by 19-90 for the girls ti­tle, while the boys Hill­top­pers were 26-88 bet­ter than fel­low Dis­trict 2-4A foe Po­joaque Val­ley.

Los Alamos also won in­di­vid­ual ti­tles as fresh­man Narissa Valdez fin­ished in con­vinc­ing fash­ion with a time of 19 min­utes, 59.92 sec­onds, which was 56.53 sec­onds bet­ter than Taos’ Alyx Mas­tor. Mean­while, a trio of Hill­top­pers sprinted in stride to the fin­ish line in the boys race, with Rafael Sanchez beat­ing Steven Strev­ell by .34 of a sec­ond in a time of 16:44.31. Team­mate Dun­can Fuehne was right on their heels with a time of 16:44.91.

That per­for­mance came on the heels of a bril­liant ef­fort at the Pat Amato Clas­sic in North­glenn, Colo.,

as Los Alamos brought home a pair of sec­ond-place fin­ishes and Fuehne was sec­ond over­all in the boys race. Count­ing the Al­bu­querque Academy In­vi­ta­tional on Sept. 28, Los Alamos boys and girls fin­ished sec­ond twice and one first over the past three weeks.

Hip­wood said she and co-head coach/hus­band Rob Hip­wood try to blend va­ri­ety into the sched­ule to avoid some of the pit­falls of com­pet­ing against the same run­ners. Kathy Hip­wood said that some­times cre­ates a com­fort level that run­ners rely upon, and the Pat Amato Clas­sic of­fered a chal­lenge of push­ing them­selves.

“They get so used to the same run­ners here, and know­ing that they should be rel­a­tive to this per­son or that per­son,” Kathy Hip­wood said. “[The Pat Amato Clas­sic] was an op­por­tu­nity, and they re­ally learned. They em­braced it and went af­ter it and didn’t set lim­i­ta­tions on them­selves. They were re­warded with some re­ally great [per­sonal records].”

ATC girls can re­late to that. The Class 2A school was among a hand­ful of small schools at the meet, but the Phoenix more than held their own against the big schools. The race for sec­ond came down to ATC and St. Michael’s, and the Phoenix’s No. 4 and 5 run­ners, Lilly Rittmeyer and Kam­ryn Hoehne, placed 22nd and 23rd. The Lady Horse­men had its first four run­ners take 10th, 14th, 16th and 17th, but No. 5 run­ner Lau­ren Cor­dova came in 37th for a 94-point to­tal for third.

ATC head coach Tim Host said the pres­sure was off the girls since fel­low Class 2A chal­lenger Pe­cos was not there and Peñasco was not at full strength.

“It kinda nice to step away from that and just see them run,” Host said. “It was nice to have Los Alamos, which is go­ing to help you get out faster [at the start], and St. Michael’s has some re­ally good girls, and so does Santa Fe High and Taos and Po­joaque. It was a big-school meet.”

On the boys side, the big schools shined, as eight of the top 10 fin­ish­ers came from Classes 4A and 5A. Lead­ing the way was the Hill­top­pers’ trio, which Po­joaque se­nior John Hall had a front-row view of. He ran with the Los Alamos pack un­til the fi­nal half mile. How­ever, Hall said he laid back and let the Hill­top­pers bat­tle among them­selves for first, as he wanted to mea­sure the op­po­nents he will see at the dis­trict meet and the state cham­pi­onships.

“I just let them go,” Hall said. “Right now, I’m just wait­ing un­til dis­tricts and state. They’re a good team. I’ll give them credit for that.”

Hall and the Elks, though, showed they can be a good squad, too.

Af­ter a dis­ap­point­ing per­for­mance at Santa Fe In­dian School’s John Grim­ley In­vi­ta­tional last week that re­sulted in a fifth-place fin­ish, the Elks bounced back. Hall took fourth, while San­ti­ago Romero was eighth as Po­joaque was only other school be­sides Los Alamos to place at least two run­ners in the top 10. The rest of the Elks’ scor­ing lad­der came in 21st (Joseph Gu­tier­rez), 27th (Se­bas­tian Ru­bio) and 28th (Zach Hall).

“We were all up­set,” John Hall said. “We all ran a bad race. I told them, ‘Hey, let’s step it up. Let’s stop mess­ing around.’ And that in­cluded me, too.”

West Las Ve­gas Isa­iah Paiz was not mess­ing around — he was too sick. A nag­ging ill­ness through­out the week kept Paiz at less than 100 per­cent head­ing into the race.

Paiz didn’t feel con­fi­dent about his per­for­mance un­til the one-mile mark com­ing down the hill around the pond hid­den in the brush be­yond the MRC soc­cer field.

“I saw the guys from Los Alamos go at it, and I just said, ‘All right, I’m just gonna go at my pace,’ ” Paiz said.

With three-fourths of a mile left, Santa Fe High’s Brock McKin­ney passed Paiz, but he gave the Dons se­nior the en­ergy to chase him down and beat him to the line for fifth — the best 3A run­ner in the field.

“I just put in the ef­fort, and I got fifth,” Paiz said. “There was a lot of good com­pe­ti­tion out here. It was just great to be out here.”

PHO­TOS BY LUIS SÁNCHEZ SATURNO/THE NEW MEX­I­CAN

Los Alamos’ Steven Strev­ell, cen­ter left, takes the lead at the start of the North­ern New Mex­ico Chal­lenge on Fri­day at the Mu­nic­i­pal Re­cre­ation Com­plex. The boys and girls Hill­top­pers ran away with first place team ti­tles. Los Alamos also won an in­di­vid­ual ti­tle as fresh­man Narissa Valdez, below, fin­ished in con­vinc­ing fash­ion.

Valdez fin­ishes first in the girls race with a time of 19 min­utes, 59.92 sec­onds.

LUIS SÁNCHEZ SATURNO/THE NEW MEX­I­CAN

St. Michael’s Lo­gan Hunt, cen­ter, helped lead the Lady Horse­men to a third-place fin­ish Fri­day at the North­ern New Mex­ico Chal­lenge in Santa Fe.

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