The Los Lunas High School track and field teams will open their season at 9 a.m. Saturday when they host the Los Lunas Invitational. The Tigers will be starting the year fresh in more ways than one.
For starters, the boys and girls teams have new head coaches. Tiger football coach Avilio Chavez takes over the boys team, and Tara Trujillo, who coached the Lady Tiger volleyball team last fall, steps in as coach for the girls.
Also gone are most of the Los Lunas contingent that qualified for the state meet last year. Javelin throwers Chris Ahlgrim, Ben Sego and Rueben Trujillo have all graduated, as has sprinter T.J. Hernandez and pole vaulter Aaron Maxwell.
Two others who went to the state meet a year ago — seniors Orlando Sanchez, a distance runner, and Nicole Balido, a discus specialist — chose not to participate this year.
Since their scheduled practice meet in Albuquerque was canceled last Saturday due to inclement weather, the new coaches are still trying to determine exactly who will settle in for which events.
“We’re just going to see where the kids are at this point in time and try to get everybody in the right place,” Chavez said.
Some spots are pretty well set. And with 40 boys out for track, they’ll be able to fill some of the holes left by the departed.
The Tiger boys do return three runners who ran at state as part of the 1600 meter relay team — Jordan Hendren, Chris Potter and Bryan Stearley. Potter also qualified in the 100- and 200-meter dashes.
Chavez said other returnees who showed good progress last year are Jason Gallegos, Johnny Sanchez, Jesus Sedillos and Matt Walker.
Sedillos has been the Tigers top hurdler in practice. Sanchez and Walker will compete in the long jump and triple jump. Other jumpers include Alex Sanchez, who also runs the 400, and Billy Chavez.
Replacing the three graduated javelin throwers will be difficult. But Gabe Apodoca, Mark Delgado and Steven Real will try.
In the shot put and discus, the Tigers are looking for Derek Garley, Andrew Lente, Nick Moya and Garrett Sego to fill the void.
Chris and Jason Gallegos and Justin Wade make up the pole vaulting contingent.
Arturo Fierro, Felix Gomez and Joseph Sandoval, holdovers from the Tigers’ cross-country team, will run the longer distance races.
Lady Tiger coach Trujillo finds herself in the same predicament as coach Chavez.
“We have such a young bunch and so many girls that haven’t run track before that, at this point, since we haven’t had a meet, we’re trying to find a hole for them and see where they fit best,” she said.
Trujillo said sophomore Colleen Page will likely be a mainstay in the relays. Fellow-sophomores Renee Dillow and Keri Hall are two other likely candidates for spots on relay teams.
Hall will also compete in the 300 hurdles and the 400-meter run.
Aria Cook also could fill a slot on a relay team, in addition to running hurdles.
Trujillo, who coaches the sprinters, said freshmen Amy Bock and Chelsey Hastings show a lot of promise.
“We lack experience, but I think we have a lot of potential,” she said. “They’re a young group, but I think they’ll do pretty well if they stick it out.”
Another promising freshman is Felicia Aragon. Jason Baca, who coaches the throwers, said Aragon has great technique.
Baca said the girls in his fold are young and may take a year or two to blossom. “Right now, we just want to see them get better and build for the future,” he said.
With Albuquerque High, Santa Fe Capital, Pojoaque, Rio Grande and Valley expected to attend Saturday’s meet, the young Lady Tigers aren’t expected to win, but that’s not important to coach Trujillo right now.
“Track is one of those things where you can literally measure if you are getting better or not, and what we need right now is a starting point for everybody,” she said.
The Tiger boys did manage to win their home meet a year ago.
“Of course we’d like to win again this year,” Chavez said, “and, with our depth, we probably have a pretty good chance to win it again.”