SPORTS Pojoaque Track Sonya Quintana

Pojoaque Valley High School senior Sonya Quintana throws her first attempt at the javelin, which sailed over 105 feet, during the state track and field championship in Albuquerque on May 13. 

Sonya Quintana’s medal seemed to be slipping away after years of work.

She finished in seventh place in both the javelin and the 100-meter dash finals, just outside of a top-six podium placement.

But she finally pulled it off, setting a personal-best with a blazing mark in the 200 meters to finish in fourth place with a medal around her neck.

“It feels great,” Quintana said. “These last couple of years have been really good competition for me. So, definitely good to be standing amongst girls that have done really good.”

Quintana was joined by sophomore Mikayla Calabaza as medal winners from Pojoaque at the 2023 state championships in Albuquerque on May 12-13.

“They were all nervous,” said first-year Pojoaque coach Terrell Calabaza. He said getting to talk with coaches from around the state helped give him perspective, and he plans to improve the program by adding more coaches next year to work more closely with individual athletes.

Mikayla Calabaza needed a big throw in the shot put on her third attempt just to make the final round and earn three additional throws. Her second throw of 29 feet, 0.5 inches was five feet off her personal best, and two feet short of what was needed.

“I was shaking, I was really nervous,” Calabaza said. “It was kind of like a win or lose. If I don’t do it now, what’s the point of coming?”

But she found extra distance in her third attempt right when she needed it, throwing 32 feet, 11.5 inches. That mark was ultimately good enough for fifth place and a spot on the podium.

The day prior, Calabaza finished 10th in the discus at 92 feet, 11 inches; her throw from the previous week at districts of over 103 feet would have placed her in the top three.

“I’ll do better next year,” the sophomore medalist said.

It took years of work for Quintana to finally reach the podium. As a freshman, the 2020 track season was canceled right as it was starting due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The following year, in a COVID-shortened season, she ran well but was placed in the slower heats in just a one-day competition, and placed behind her older sister who reached the medal stand.

In 2022, she seemed to have a strong chance in sprints, but finished seventh in the 100 meters, 0.1 seconds off the medal stand, and in the 200 meters she finished eighth while in a virtual tie for sixth place (.005 seconds behind).

And in her first two events of 2023, she again came up just short. She qualified for the 100 meter finals after setting a personal record in the preliminary. And she ran well in the final, but was ultimately seventh, behind four Los Alamos runners.

“The way I see it is that not a lot of people get to go to finals, they don’t even get to come to state,” Quintana said. “So I’m very grateful that I even have this opportunity to run on this track.”

For the javelin, Quintana entered as the top seed. She had set a school record earlier in the season, and repeated it the next week at 124 feet. (Quintana’s older sister’s boyfriend, Dominic Esquibel, set the boys record a year ago; she said Esquibel has been supporting her all year.)

“It definitely wasn’t one of my goals to become first, or any of that, I just love that event,” Quintana said. “To be able to break the school record, get more PRs after that, it was really eye-opening. I wish I would have done it sooner.”

But windy conditions, and a first time throwing on a turf field, combined to make it a struggle for Quintana. Her first throw sailed 105 feet, 7 inches, but she failed to reach that mark in her next five attempts, and settled for a seventh-place finish. Her 100-meter finals run came minutes later, without time to warm up for it.

In the 200 meters, she qualified as the eighth seed in preliminaries, though she had a bit of a buffer over ninth place. For the final, she cut nearly a full second off her time, and passed four Los Alamos runners who had been ahead of her.

Elijah Hall won the district high jump championship at 5 feet, 8 inches. At state, he made it over the opening height on his third attempt. But he could not repeat clearing the bar at 5-8, and settled for 17th place.

Senior Kaylee Salazar entered after winning the 400-meter dash at districts.

While qualifying in a district against Los Alamos (who dominated the state competition for both boys and girls) is always a difficult ask, Terrell Calabaza said they had fun at districts by entering athletes in new events.

“Hopefully I can just build up this program the way it should be, put Pojoaque back on the map,” he said. “Hopefully, after this, it will just be that build up again.”

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