LOS LUNAS — After a break of exactly 365 days due to the COVID-19 pandemic, prep sports returned to Valencia County last Saturday when Belen and Los Lunas squared off in a cross country meet at LLHS.
In a departure from recent results, the two squads split the accolades in what turned out to be the only regular-season meet of the year for the two squads.
On the girls’ side, Belen finished with three of the top five runners, as Sofia Castillo took first for the Eagles with a time of 24:47, followed by LLHS’ Amanda Sparks who finished in exactly 25 minutes.
BHS then took third and fourth, as Lisette Sanchez finished with a time of 26:14 and Sara Martinez finished in 26:48. Kiyah Padilla of Los Lunas rounded out the top five with a time of 26:54
Belen coach Fernando Sisneros said he was pleased with how his team ran on Saturday and thinks they will be able to make some noise within the district.
With special districts in place for fall sports this year, the Eagles are in a district with Del Norte, Highland, Valencia and Valley.
The district meet is scheduled to take place on Saturday, March 20, at the cross country course located near Nusenda Community Stadium in Albuquerque at a time still to be determined.
“Even in a normal year in our normal district I think we would’ve been in a position to make an impact,” Sisneros said. “It’s been a while since we beat Los Lunas, so I think that bodes really well for us.”
Sisneros also mentioned he was proud of how his runners performed given the tight schedule they were working with.
Until the Public Education Department waived the two-week acclimation period on Monday, March 8, there wasn’t going to be an opportunity for any of the county schools to compete in cross country, even if all the other fall sports were able to occur.
Within five days of finding out they could compete, the teams were running at LLHS.
On the boys’ side, LLHS continued their run of county dominance behind the first-place finish of Butch Bottini, the Tigers’ top returner from last year’s sixth-place team.
Bottini ran the course in 19:49 and was followed by Micah Sparks in second with a time of 20:28, with teammates Treyton Padilla (21:23) and Brandon Shiplet (22:09) coming in third and fourth. Belen’s top finisher was Matias Padilla, who placed fifth with a time of 22:39.
The Eagle’s runners were tightly packed through much of the race which reflected itself in the standings, with Padilla, Nick Fresquez and Diego Martinez, the fifth, sixth and seventh place runners finishing within two seconds of each other.
The two had planned to square off again at Los Lunas on Monday, but the coaches discussed it and decided they would rather shift their focus to preparing for district meets instead.
Given the tight schedule they were working with, the risk of pushing the runners too hard was something they wanted to avoid.