ATC hoping to claim trophies at state meet
Tim Host can’t wait for Saturday morning. The head cross-country coach for the Academy for Technology and the Classics has high hopes that his program will bring home two trophies from the state Cross-Country Championships at Rio Rancho High School. And he hopes he can gain bragging rights over one of the top programs in the state.
The Class 1A/2A girls race should develop into a showdown between the Phoenix and the Pecos Lady Panthers — something that was clear before the season even began. The cat-and-mouse game between the two teams took another turn at last week’s District 2-2A meet, when the Lady Panthers used the 1-2 finish of eighth-grader Mistidawn Roybal and Vanessa Dominguez to fuel a 24-35 win over ATC for the team title.
“It is what is, what it has been and will be,” Host said. “We’re not going anywhere, and neither are they. Let’s see who brings it.”
However, Host sees hope that his boys team is running well at the right time to not just get on the podium, but perhaps even pull off the upset in the opening race of the meet. The race for the blue trophy appears to be between Navajo Pine and Pecos, but ATC’s performance in the district meet, in which it only trailed the Panthers 21-41, gave Host reason to think his team might sneak its way to the state title.
“It’s gonna be great,” Host said. “If they got out after Pine, we’re going to be there for the knockout. We feel like we’ve been disrespected and left out of the conversation for a long time, and the boys feel like they have something to prove.”
Meanwhile, Pecos head coach Patrick Ortiz was encouraged by the Lady Panthers’ performance, especially after ATC outpointed them at the Rio Rancho Jamboree, 40-47, on Oct. 20.
“I think they’ve kinda figured it out,” Ortiz said. “We had some additions, with Mistidawn joining our team and fitting in very well. She was not afraid of the competition and she came in and grabbed it by the horns, and took off.”
The shifts in teams from the recent round of classification and alignment might have brought some new names to the state meet, but one thing hasn’t changed — it will be a dogfight among four or five teams.
In the case of 3A girls, it might be even more. Albuquerque Cottonwood Classical Prep, last year’s 2A champion, consistently ran well at most meets to put itself in the state race. Then, Cottonwood Classical finished third in the 5-3A meet behind East Mountain and Laguna Acoma, although it was within seven points of the Lady Timberwolves.
District 2-3A will bring its own host of challengers with Las Vegas Robertson, St. Michael’s and Santa Fe Indian School. The Lady Cardinals won the district meet last week in Las Vegas, N.M., but the Lady Horsemen beat SFIS for second place by two points.
“Everybody is up in the air,” SFIS head coach Joe Calabaza said. “We don’t know what is going to happen [Saturday]. We just got to run.”
St. Michael’s should be at full strength, now that Logan Hunt can focus on running after the girls soccer team made a run to the 1A/3A title match Friday. Lenny Gurule, the Lady Horsemen head coach, feels like he has a good problem in that he has four No. 1 runners in Hunt, Janai Clayton, London Luttrell and Violet Eklund.
The key to success for the Lady Horsemen could come down to senior Lauren Cordova, who Gurule said has raised her level over the past few weeks.
“I always felt Lauren could run better than she’s shown,” Gurule said. “She’s finally done that the past couple of meets, and that will go a long way. She’s not as far back [in the pack], and she’s running pretty well.”
On the boys side, Zuni and Laguna Acoma went from stalwarts in 2A to stalwarts in 3A when it moved up, but Calabaza feels the Braves are in contention for a podium finish — and maybe more.
One thing driving the SFIS coaches was last year’s disappointment of missing out on a podium finish to West Las Vegas at the state meet. It’s just that the group of current Braves are not familiar with that.
“The awesome thing is we graduated four seniors, but we’re back again with a young group,” Calabaza said. “They don’t remember it, but we, as coaches, remind them of that.”
Another year, another Academy-Los Alamos battle for the top spot in 4A. The two teams have been breathing down each other’s necks for most of the season, with Academy’s boys and girls usually finishing on top. However, the gap closed significantly down the stretch, and the Los Alamos boys managed to beat the Chargers on the boys side at the Los Alamos Invitational.
The Lady Hilltoppers and Hilltoppers swept the 2-4A meet, with Taos taking second on the girls side and Pojoaque placing second on the boys side. The Lady Tigers, who won the last two 4A titles in a six-class system prior to this year’s five classifications, are in the running for a podium finish behind a group of underclassmen, led by freshman Alyx Mastor.
Capital and Santa Fe High did not qualify either boys or girls teams this year, but the Demons have a chance to get a top-20 finish out of Brock McKinney, who took fifth place at last weekend’s 5-5A meet.