Belen and Los Lunas will send full teams to the State Cross-Country Championships, while Valencia qualified its boys’ squad after performing well at district meets last week.
For the Los Lunas Tigers, the streak lives. In his 30-plus years coaching the LLHS cross country program, Larry Padilla has had a district team champion — boys or girls — each year. The streak survived after the Tiger boys captured the District 5-5A title Friday at Community Stadium in Albuquerque.
Any pressure, coach?
“No, not really,” Padilla said. “I just want the kids to have success. And if they get a p-r (personal record) or if they run well, then they’ve had a successful season. And they’ve done that.”
Tigers’ senior Micah Sparks out-sprinted an Albuquerque High School runner to win the boys individual championship.
“We all put on a show,” Sparks said of the Tigers. “We showed what we are made of, and I’m excited to see what we do at state.”
LLHS had five of the top 11 runners, including junior Eneas Armijo, who finished third.
The Los Lunas girls are also off to state, finishing second behind Albuquerque High School. Senior Kiyah Padilla came in fourth overall.
“I’m really proud of our team,” said Padilla, who recently found out she is related to coach Padilla. “We have come a long way from the beginning of the year. All the girls are so amazing.”
The Valencia Jaguars and the Belen Eagles will also be well represented at the state meet after shining at the district 5-4A meet at Valencia High School.
While St. Pius dominated the boys’ and girls’ divisions, Belen qualified both of their teams after finishing second in each.
“It’s a long season. We worked hard,” said BHS coach Fernando Sisneros. “We’re glad to make it into the state championships this weekend.”
The Eagles’ Lisette Sanchez collapsed at the finish line after winning the individual title.
“I was just trying to push it as much as I can. When I got to the 200, I said, ‘God please help me, push me along,” Sanchez recalled.
The Jaguars received reinforcements from the VHS soccer squads, helping the boys qualify for state. Soccer player Victor Ramirez finished third, while senior Colton Plant — the only boy on the team at the start of the season — finished fifth.
Plant returns to state for the first time since he was an eighth-grader.
“Honestly, I can’t be more thankful to the people I ran with, between Belen and Los Lunas — and the coaches,” a tearful Plant said after the race. “I couldn’t be more proud.”
The Valencia girls did not qualify for state as a team, but freshman Francesca Otero, one of the Jaguar soccer players, finished fifth and qualified individually.
“I’ve never actually practiced with the cross-country team. This is my third meet with them,” Otero said, adding, “I think a lot of my running (ability) comes from soccer.”
The state meet is Saturday at the Albuquerque Academy campus.
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.