ALBUQUERQUE — The Belen girls cross country team, behind the individual performance of junior runner Sofia Castillo, claimed the 4A-5 district championship on Friday at Nusenda Community Stadium. Castillo earned an individual accolade as well, winning the individual district crown for her first-place finish in the Eagles first-ever race at the course.

“The course was pretty challenging,” Castillo said. “I’m just really excited how it all played out. I was excited to even have an actual district.”

The race took its toll on Castillo, who felt it as soon as she crossed the finish line.

“It really hurt,” she said, laughing. “Especially with the uphill, it felt really good. I was relieved once I finished. I just wanted to push my hardest.”

Submitted photo courtesy of Joanne Silva
The Belen girls cross country team celebrates after winning the district title on Saturday in Albuquerque.

After numerous delays and what was thought to be the end of their hopes for a season, she said she was thankful to even be out on the course at all, not to mention having finished first in both meets she competed in.

“We started training early in the summer and kept getting shot down about having a season,” Castillo said. “Then coach sprung it upon us less than a week before our first meet that we were going to get to run.”

Castillo isn’t setting any goals for herself at the state meet and just wants to focus on pushing herself.

“Just to do my best and to push myself to the best of my abilities,” Castillo said. “Hopefully I can really inspire these girls to just do their best since they’re all younger than me. I’m really excited.”

As a result of the team’s first-place finish, the Eagles qualify their entire team to run at state, which will take place on Friday, March 26, at Albuquerque Academy, with the boys running at 2 p.m. and the girls at 2:30.

Cameron Goeldner | News-Bulletin photo
The Belen boys cross country team races at the district meet on Saturday. They finished second, and will compete at state on Friday.

The Belen boys, who narrowly finished second behind district champion Del Norte, also will run a full squad on Friday, with the Eagles returning to the team competition after missing out on both sides last season, qualifying only individual runners.

Los Lunas

For Los Lunas, the Tigers ran their district meet on the evening of March 19, and failed to claim a district crown in their first year running in Class 5A. However, the Tigers still qualified both teams to compete at state. For LLHS and the other 5A schools, the state meet will take place on Saturday, March 27, at noon and 12:30 p.m. at Albuquerque Academy.

Ticketing for the event will be based on Bernalillo County’s color, and the course will be cleared between each classification. The event will also be streamed on nfhsnetwork.

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Cameron Goeldner grew up in Boulder, Colo., and attended the University of New Mexico. He covers everything sports for all Valencia County schools.