Anybody looking for any surprises at the District 2-4A championship cross country meet on Nov. 1 at Edgewood Middle School had to look elsewhere.
With the top three teams from both the boys and girls side qualifying for the state meet on Nov. 9 at Rio Rancho High School, Los Alamos High School, Taos High School and Pojoaque Valley High School all played part to the script that many were expecting, based off the results throughout the regular season.
The boys and girls team results mirrored each other, as the Hilltoppers (15) and Lady Hilltoppers (19) both took first place, the Tigers (69) and Lady Tigers (47) finished second and the Elks (79) and Elkettes (77) snagged the final qualifying spots in third place.
“Really no surprises,” Pojoaque head coach Allan Lockridge said. “We tried and we were hoping (to compete with Los Alamos and Taos), but we got what we wanted.”
The Hilltoppers not only swept the first five spots, but their sixth runner, Gage Ellis, also took sixth. Steven Strevell and Rafael Sanchez led the way for Los Alamos in first and second with times of 17 minutes, 22.26 seconds and 17:22.66.
The Elks’ Santiago Romero placed tenth (17:59.79) to earn a place on the 2-4A All-District team, while Joseph Gutierrez and Dylan Romero were not far behind, finishing in 12th and 13th.
For the Elkettes, Mia Vigil led the team with a 14th-place finish after Marisa Martinez was Pojoaque’s top runner one week earlier in Los Alamos.
This week, Marisa was 16th and older sister, Michaela Martinez, finished 18th.
Ninth-grader Arissa Herrod and eighth-grader Jasmine Valdez completed the scoring for the Elkettes in 20th and 21st.
Santiago Romero was one of the several Pojoaque runners who drastically improved their time on the Edgewood course from the first meet held there on Sept. 14. His improvement was in the fashion of nearly six seconds (18:05.46).
“We looked at all the times, and virtually everyone improved,” Lockridge said. “Some by a few seconds and some by as much as a minute. I’m happy for my seniors and my teams because they get to go to state. We did well and as good as I expected and as good as I wanted.”
Española Valley High School had to count on placing individual runners inside the top three from the non-qualifying teams to get involved at state, and it did so successfully with one runner from the Sundevils and Lady Sundevils.
For the boys, Jose Castro captured a state-qualifying spot by placing 17th in 18:41.78, which was the third and final individual spot for the boys. Moriarty High School’s Ovideo Lujan (11th) and Romello Dominguez (16) snagged the first two qualifiers.
Like Castro, Lady Sundevil Emily Chavez has been running with momentum over the past month, and her hard work rewarded her the second individual qualifier for the girls.
Her 15th place finish was three spots behind Moriarty’s Donmiarre Notah in 12th, and 12 spots ahead of fellow Lady Pinto Chelsea Stiverson in 27th.
“Jose and Emily have really made some huge strides this season,” Española head coach Landen Elliott-Knaggs said. “All the way from even the beginning of the season and when they ran this course the first time, they’ve improved a lot. I’m excited to see how they do (at state).”
The disappointment on the day for Española was captain Juan Branch’s 21st place finish, leaving him without a state bid after a promising looking season. The junior ran the course in 18:34.77 in September, but his time at the District championship dropped to 19:09.82.
Senior girls captain Alysia Martinez also did not qualify, finishing 30th out of the 36 total runners.
“As our captains, I was really hoping they would make it and that was definitely in the realm of possibility.” Elliott-Knaggs said. “Moriarty had a really strong day and it just didn’t quite work out for us. I think Branch just had an off day and Moriarty’s No. 2 (Dominguez) had an amazing day.”
Overall, the Española boys placed fourth out of the five teams, edging out Moriarty thanks to Mario Equino. The senior’s 31st place finish comfortably edged out Moriarty’s sixth man, Jayden Lucero, who finished 37th out of the 40 total runners.
“It’s a good example, because sometimes the kids tend to the think the sixth and seventh runners don’t matter,” Elliott-Knaggs said. “It did today, and it would have mattered if it would have come down to the seventh as well.”
Castro and Chavez both improved their times over a minute from the first go-round at Edgewood. Castro’s 18:41.78 was well in front of his original 19:47.89 and Chavez improved from 23:49.58 to the 22:32.41 at the District Championship.
The Class 4A girls race is scheduled for 10:00 a.m., Saturday at Rio Rancho, and the boys race is slated for a 12:05 start time.