The Española Valley High School cross country program has squeezed its way into the state championship meet, after both the girls and boys teams finished in third place, Oct. 27, at the district meet. 

The top three teams in each district make their way to the state championship meet, Nov. 4, at Rio Rancho High School, and the Sundevils and Lady Sundevils did just enough to make the cut.

They came into the district meet with home-field advantage, as the course wound through the back of the high school, snaking along through the baseball and softball fields, before going up and down rocky hills. The course started and ended on the newly-built track and field.

On both the boys and girls side, the Albuquerque Academy Chargers won in dominating fashion, and Los Alamos High School shadowed them in second place. The Lady Chargers swept the competition away, claiming the first six spots in the district. Toby Utterback finished with the top spot, at 19 minutes, 5 seconds. 

Los Alamos’ Marin Kelly halted the Lady Chargers from taking a complete sweep of the top seven places, as she finished in seventh, one second faster than Academy’s Sarah Weber, who ended up in eighth place.

Española’s consistent top finisher, Faith Trujillo, officially finished in 13th, beating out two Los Alamos runners. Trujillo’s time of 20 minutes, 55 seconds was followed by fellow Lady Sundevil Jayden Archuleta, who took 16th place in the district.

“Our coach tells us to look out for other teams in our district, to help us prepare for districts,” Trujillo said of her tough competition. “So, we kind of knew who we were running against.”

Although Trujillo has raced the course a number of times in practice, in addition to it being the location of the first meet of the season, she said the experience did not make the hilly locale any easier to run.

Capital High School and Del Norte High School both did not have enough girls runners to place in the district meet.

They did have plenty on the boys side of the event, and Del Norte gave the Sundevils a scare, landing five points below Española in the team placing. Again, Academy took the top spot in the district, with Los Alamos finishing at the Chargers’ heels. 

A.J. Kedge won the meet, getting a time of 15 minutes, 34 seconds to give Academy a clear first-place winner. Teammate Julian Garcia followed 21 seconds behind Kedge for second place.

Española senior Daylon Garcia was the top finisher for the Sundevils, with a time of 16 minutes, 31 seconds, which earned him 11th place in the district.

“It felt good,” Garcia said. “It was a little cold. But, when you’re in conditions like this, you just have to give it all you’ve got. I went out a little too fast, and was losing my energy.”

Juan Branch ended with second place for the Sundevils, 18th overall, and Ryan Trujillo ran right behind Branch. He claimed 19th place in the district.

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