People & Places

Mike Powers
VCNB Sports Writer

It was a bit of an unusual situation. Normally, it is me flying to the rescue, with cape flapping in the wind like Mighty Mouse. “Here I come to save the day!”

However, on a Monday afternoon right around April Fool’s Day, it was I who needed rescuing, or at least help.

While leaving the dirt parking lot at Valencia High School after a softball interview, a loud hissing noise could be heard outside my beloved 2005 Ford Escape. What the heck? A small group in a nearby field was staring back at me wide-eyed, so they heard the sound, too.

Out the door I flew to see what was going on. No mystery here. A cosmetic scissors had pierced the back left tire. All I could do was watch as within seconds the hissing stopped and the tire was flat. After a quick eulogy, ‘it had a good life,’ I pondered my next move.

Option 1: Change the tire myself; something I hadn’t done in 30 years. Plus, my damaged shoulder might complicate things. (It’s such a handy excuse.)

Option 2: Call AAA, the auto club. However, explaining the location of Valencia High School to some operator in Wisconsin may not be easy: “Take Manzano Expressway and, eventually, head east. If you reach the Manzano Mountains, you’ve gone too far.”

About that time, the adult who was with the students watching from the field came over. It was Sean Storms, an assistant track coach for the Jaguars, who was working on the discus with a several students when the hissing started.

“As soon as we heard the air escaping the tire, it was like, “Let’s go see if we can help in anyway,” Storms recalled several weeks later.  Did I look totally helpless, I asked? “Not totally,” was the response.

Storms reminded me he went to school with my son, Casey. They were in the band together and members of the first VHS graduating class.

“Can we help,” he asked? As I mumbled something like, “I’d hate to bother you guys,” I was actually thinking, “Oh, yes, please!”

Before responding, Storms and the students looked things over and took charge. One of the athletes, sophomore Josiah Isais, literally sprinted the 200 yards or so to the schools’ auto shop for more assistance. An auto shop on campus? How perfect is that?

“For the kids who are passionate about it, they get to stay late, work on their own vehicles, their friend’s vehicles,” Storms said of the auto shop program. “It better prepares them for careers outside of high school.”

Within minutes, Josiah and two other students raced back in a Gator, kicking up dust along the way. The trio was hauling several pieces of equipment, including a floor jack to lift the car. Much more efficient and safer than the antique I carried.

The three sized up the situation, making observations and then formulated a strategy. I was taking mental notes for the next time this situation might arise. The students have become the teacher.

Each young man seemed to gravitate to a specific role, with Storms and I as “supervisors.” Within just a few minutes, the deceased rubber was off and the much smaller spare tire, a doughnut, was placed on.

After following them back to the auto shop, the spare was filled with air to help me get to the closest tire store. Before leaving, I offered each of them $10 for their trouble.

One by one, they politely declined, but I insisted.

“You don’t know how much time and stress you saved me,” I told them.

This could have been a huge hassle but instead it was a huge eye-opener. It was a reminder that there is a lot of good in young people — a lot of big hearts out there.

We may look past that goodness as we complain about teens being teens, like when they are glued to their phones. Well, recently at the doctor’s office, filled with mostly senior citizens, what were we all doing? Scrolling our phones.

During the nearly one year since joining the News-Bulletin as a sportswriter, I’ve probably interviewed close to 200 students. Not once can I remember a disrespectful tone, a cocky attitude or a flippant answer — even after a difficult loss.

Since the pandemic started, and probably earlier, it has largely been teenagers keeping our favorite restaurants and businesses open. Many working while studying and, for some, being responsible for brother and sister back home.

I’m not ready to put halos on anyone, but the incident at Valencia, aka, Flat Tire Flats, shined a positive light on these young people and their coach, who haven’t had a cakewalk over the past few years.

So, when high school seniors across Valencia County walked the stage recently, picking up diplomas and tossing caps high in the air, I sent a little tip of my cap their way. Good luck and thank you.

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Mike Powers spent more than 40 years as a television news and sports anchor, mostly in the Albuquerque market. He has won numerous awards including New Mexico Sportscaster of the Year. He covers a wide range of sports, including the Valencia County prep scene.