Several athletes from Northern New Mexico competed in the Class 1A-3A track and field state championship, May 5, at the University of New Mexico, but nobody enjoyed as much success as Mesa Vista High School sprinters Frankie Ortiz and Abrianna Griego.
Ortiz won the boys 100-meter dash, with a time of 11.86 seconds, to capture his only first place finish.
“I was expecting a lower time, but this is still good,” he said. “It’s amazing being a senior that I can go out with a win like this — it makes it 10 times more special.”
Ortiz was the defending state champion in the 400 and was ready to defend his title, but a false start disqualified him and he did not get the opportunity to go back-to-back.
However, he still placed second in the 200, clocking a time of 23.96 seconds.
Griego, on the Lady Trojans’ team, enjoyed two first place finishes in the girls 400 and 200-meters. She was also qualified to run the 800, but opted to skip the event to focus on the latter races.
“It wasn’t an easy decision to sit out the 800, but my coaches gave me the choice and it turned out to be the right one,” she said. “I finished second in the 400 last year, so it feels great to win it now.”
Griego won the 400 with a time of 1 minute, and 1.67 seconds, nearly three full seconds faster than the second place finisher, Aubrie Hinds, from Escalante High School. Hinds’s teammate, Reina Terrazas, finished behind her, in third place.
In the 200, Griego defeated Gateway Christian High School’s Megyn Balok by just six-tenths of a second, by running a 27.49.
McCurdy Charter School’s Ernesto Martinez had high hopes for the championship, looking to improve on his fifth place finish a year ago, in the 100. He did just that, placing second with a time of 11.37 seconds, just three-tenths behind Gustavo Macias from Dexter High School.
In the Class 3A District 2 championship, April 27, in Dulce, Martinez said his start was going to be the key for success in Albuquerque.
“He (Macias) definitely got me on that start,” he said. “I tried gaining on him but just couldn’t do it — if there was 10 more meters, I think I could have caught him.”
Martinez was also one of the favorites in the 200, but he never got the opportunity to cross the finish line, as he was forced to pull up midway through the race.
“It was my hamstring,” he said. “I was making the turn and it just gave out on me. It’s unfortunate, but there’s always next year.”
Escalante runners also had two close calls, which both resulted in second place finishes.
Andres Blea’s time of 40.77 seconds in the 300-meter hurdles broke the state record of 40.78, but it wasn’t enough to win. Kasey Reese from Mountainair High School edged him out, setting the new record at 40.74.
Hailey Whitaker nearly won the girls 300 hurdles, but a fall at the finish line cost her the title.
Her time was 48.28 seconds, nine-tenths behind Ajia Hughes, from Cloudcroft High School.
Although she didn’t repeat as the state champion in the event, Whitaker was still pleased with her performance and already looking toward next year.
“I saw her (Hughes) in my peripheral vision, so I just tried to lean forward as much as I could,” she said. “It wasn’t my best race and I’m not completely happy about it, but I’m not disappointed either. I think I can come back and dominate this event next year as a senior.”
Whitaker also came up just short in the girls long jump, which took place on May 4, finishing just three-quarters of an inch behind the winner, Balok, from Gateway Christian.
The Escalante boys finished fourth overall, with 31 points and the girls’ 32 was good enough for sixth. The Mesa Vista boys finished seventh and the girls finished 10th.
Performances that could not go unnoticed came from Class 1A’s Melrose High School sisters, Lakasey and Nataley Mondragon.
Nataley Mondragon , who is a sophomore, set new records in the girls 100, 200, and 400 and tied the high jump record. Her three record-breaking marks were part of 15 total records broken during the event. She also won the long jump.
Lakasey Mondragon broke the 1A pole vault record, which was her own record from 2017.
The sisters’ performances helped the Lady Buffaloes repeat as state champions.