At a high school state championship — athletic or academic — the most experienced competitors often have an edge. Not always.
Many of the top headliners at the New Mexico High School Cross Country Championships Saturday at Albuquerque Academy were not even in high school. Three of the individual champions were eighth graders.
While not sharing in the overall glory this year, all three Valencia County schools are sharing in the youth movement.
Los Lunas boys, with three freshmen and a sophomore, had the best showing among local teams on the 5K course, finishing eighth in 5A.
Freshman Isaac Gonzales, competing in his second state meet, had difficulty “finding a spot” at the start in a crowded field. Even though Gonzales “lost a lot of energy,” he still finished with a PR (17:08), 35th overall.
“I want to keep improving,” Gonzales said. “My senior year, I hope to be a state champion.”
Gonzales was a few spots behind senior teammate Eneas Jaramillo (17:02), who was also caught in traffic.
“I’m still happy with what I did for my last race,” Jaramillo said.
As for the youthful talent, “It’s going to make really good competition for the next few years.”
Valencia senior Victor Ramirez had the best individual performance among county runners. Ramirez was 11th in the boys’ 4A race (16:40), one spot short of All-State status.
“I am really proud of myself for getting a minute off what I got last year here,” Ramirez said. “It’s crazy to think that I got a sub 17.”
Belen had an all upperclassmen boys roster, finishing 15th as a team.
“I think we could have done better,” said junior Julian Jurado, the Eagles’ top runner (18:31.) “But it’s the end of the season. Everyone’s tired. We gave it our all.”
The future looks bright for the BHS girls, who came in 11th in 4A. The lineup, minus injured junior Lisette Sanchez, has a sophomore, three freshmen and Belen Middle School eighth-grader Carlie Baca, who had the best time (21:39) among the Eagles.
“Everybody on the team is really nice,” Baca said about being accepted by her older teammates, giving a “shout-out to the seniors. Without them I wouldn’t be able to do it.”
Baca finished 41st in the field of 121 competitors.
Just behind Baca was Valencia sophomore Francesca Otero (21:47), while VHS freshman Haylee Purdee (25:54) also competed for the Jaguars.
In the 5A girls’ race, Los Lunas was back in the pack. The Tigers’ lose five seniors but will reload with freshman Ainsley McKay, who crossed the finish line first for LLHS (22:35.)
In addition, eighth-graders Sally Servan and Rhys Romero made their first state appearance for Los Lunas.
St. Michael’s eighth-grader Chloe Grieco was among the individual champions, winning the 3A title (18:15) despite taking a wrong turn and having to backtrack. Grieco found her motivation to run as a 9 year old, when she finished seventh in a race and only the top six received ribbons.
“I really wanted that ribbon and ever since then I’ve been striving for first,” she said.
New Mexico High School Cross Country Results
5A Boys: Los Lunas
32-Eneas Armijo, Sr. (17:02)
35-Isaac Gonzales, Fr. (17:08)
62-Logan Martin, Sr. (17:58)
64-James Kilcullen, Jr. (18:01)
69-Brady Garcia, Fr. (18:08)
84-James Martinez, Fr. (18:31)
108-Lucas Bland, So. (19:42)
4A Boys: Belen
60-Julian Jurado, Jr. (18:31)
87-Kyle Glodt, Jr. (19:28)
95-Joshua Jaramillo, Jr. (19:50)
102-Matias Padilla, Sr. (20:45)
105-Nico Arriaga, Jr. (21:02)
108-Carlos Trujillo, Jr. (21:41)
4A Boys: Valencia
11-Victor Ramirez, Sr. (16:54)
5A Girls: Los Lunas
79-Ainsley McKay, Fr. (22:35)
96-Claire Kilcullen, Sr. (23:40)
101-Rio Romero, Sr. (23:54)
103-Sierra Gonzales, Sr. (24:08)
107-Stella Simpson, Sr. (24:52)
114-Sally Servan, 8th (25:43)
117-Rhys Romero, 8th (26:05)
4A Girls: Belen
41-Carlie Baca, 8th (21:39)
59-Gaberiela Jaramillo, Jr. (22:35)
67-Leilani Gonzales, Fr. (22:50)
78-Angelica Romero, Sr. (23:44)
94-Linsey Sanchez, Fr. (25:27)
104-Camila Ornelas, So. (26:21)
4A Girls: Valencia
44-Francesca Otero, So. (21:47)
101-Haylee Purdy, Fr. (25:54)
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.