The main goal of the Belen High School boys cross-country team is to qualify for state by placing in the top two at the District 3-4A meet the Eagles will host on Nov. 2.

With just six boys out for the sport, it won’t be an easy task. Each school enters seven runners at every meet, and the top five finishers count for points.

“That’s tough to have just six boys,” said head coach Joseph E. Garcia. “You really need seven people, but you can run with six. And I’ve got everyone coming back from last year.”

Leading the group is the coach’s son, Joseph R. Garcia, a junior who placed 14th at the state meet a year ago. Also back are senior Stefan Marr, junior Kip Lewis, sophomore Francisco Salazar and freshman Jacob Chavez. Amador Gonzales, an eighth-grader, is the team’s sixth man.

With Albuquerque Academy moving out of the district, the Eagles’ chances of qualifying for state increase dramatically. And the team is looking ahead to the district meet.

“The kids that are out this year are really motivated,” the coach said. “I think they can see the light at the end. They’re talking about district already.”

“I strongly feel the district championship is in Belen’s reach,” the younger Joseph said. “I feel a lot of potential on the boys team.”

While the Belen boys hope to qualify for state as a team, the Lady Eagles will have to focus on individual performances.

Only a handful of girls are out for cross-country this year. Arlene Espinoza, who has qualified for state as an individual the last two years, is back for her senior season. “She started off the year a little slow, but she’s really running strong. She’s running like a senior,” the coach said.

Arlene’s little sister Christine, who also qualified for state a year ago as an eighth-grader, is not running with the team, opting to play volleyball instead.

That leaves Nicole Dominguez as the Lady Eagles’ only other experienced runner. Newcomers to the team this year are sophomore Alia Driscoll and freshmen Lorina Castillo and Jackie Snow.

“All the girls and all the guys are getting stronger every day,” coach Garcia said. “I’m seeing a lot of potential.”

Belen will open the season next Saturday at the Del Norte Invitational in Albuquerque.

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