Mike Powers | News-Bulletin photos
Runners face challenging conditions at the Los Lunas Cross Country Invitational.

Cross country is a sport that has plenty of sweat and aches and pains. At Saturday’s Los Lunas Cross Country Invitational, you can mix in mud, water and perhaps a little blood.

The annual event is always a challenge, with a course featuring dirt, grass, turf, asphalt and sand covering the Los Lunas High School campus. Add a steady rain and it was a battle against the elements as well as fellow competitors.

LLHS won the boys’ team title easily, with five runners in the top 13. Tigers’ senior Micah Sparks finally pulled away from Taos freshman Judah Daffron over the final 100 meters to win the individual title. Eneas Armijo of Los Lunas was third.

LLHS runner Micah Sparks survives a fall to win the LL Cross Country Invitational.

Sparks won despite taking a tumble early in the race.

“I took a spill right in front of everybody. I was leading the pack out,” Sparks said. “I got covered in mud, but I didn’t let that keep me down because you have to persevere through that stuff. We’re cross-country runners.”

Taos finished second behind the Tigers in the boy’s team competition, with Belen in ninth place. Kyle Glodt was the Eagles’ top runner. Colton Plant was the only official boys’ competitor from Valencia High School.

For the girls, Taos dominated the field, with Belen fourth and Los Lunas fifth. Belen sophomore Lisette Sanchez captured another individual title but she was

Belen’s Lisette Sanchez holds off Neveah Cachora of Española Valley.

challenged the entire distance by Española Valley freshman Neveah Cachora.

“It was definitely scary,” Sanchez said, but “I could tell by her breathing, it was a little harsh. I had to stay confident and know I could do it.”

The runners seemed to brush off the conditions.

“Our course is one of the most difficult,” because of the different surfaces, according to LLHS senior Kiyah Padilla, who finished fifth. “The weather wasn’t what we are used to but it was nice to run in the rain. Something different.”

There were plenty of cheers and applause as spectators wandered the course.

“The people around you encourage you,” said Valencia’s Abigail Vigil. “They point directions because sometimes you can get lost a little bit.”

Thirteen schools were represented at the meet as runners prepare for district competition the last weekend of October. The state championship is Nov. 5 in Rio Rancho.

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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.