Taos Tigers Cross Country at a glance

Colors: Black, orange, white

Coach: Bruce Gomez (34th year)

2017 District 2-4A finish: Girls 1st, Boys 5th.

2017 State Class 4A finish: Girls 1st, Boys did not qualify as a team.

2018 District 2-4A teams: Española Valley Sundevils, Los Alamos Hilltoppers, Taos Tigers, Pojoaque Valley Elks, Moriarty Pintos.

Top runners:

Ella Katz; sophomore. The evolution of Katz as one of the top female distance runners in New Mexico has been fun to watch and an unexpected treat. Katz grabbed the class 4A crown at the 2017 state championship meet, outpacing her own teammates, Cora Cannedy and Alyx Mastor, and crossing the finish line with time of 20:18.80. The evolution must continue though for Katz as the Taos Tigers slide into a new Class 4A and find themselves in a very competitive field at the top for the next few years.

Alyx Mastor; freshman. As an eighth-grader, Mastor worked her way up the ranks of each level of Lady Tigers' teams. She surged late in the season and claimed a top-three spot among the Taos runners and a talented Class 4A field coming in on the heels of Cannedy who out-kicked her on the homestretch. Look for the freshman to play a key role as a top scorer in 2018.

Eddie Duran; sophomore. Last year's lone state participant from the boys team, Duran was able to whittle out a top 75 finish with a time of 19:43.85. Though not his best outing on the course at Rio Rancho, Duran has shown improvement since his running debut as an eighth-grader. A plethora of seniors on the roster this year will increase the chances of the boys team returning to state this year, but expect to see Duran leading the charge for Coach Gomez.

Varsity Boys:

John Esquibel, senior; Zach Trujillo, senior; Adrian Rodriguez, senior; Nathaniel Martinez, senior; Robert Lewis Trujillo, junior; Eddie Duran, sophomore; Aiden Heflin, sophomore; Joe Trujillo, sophomore; Sam Hastings, sophomore; Duncan Stewart-Jackson, sophomore; Jonathan Evans; freshman; Silas Katz, freshman; Elliot Moltz, freshman; Ricky Alford, freshman; Carlos Rodriguez, freshman.

Varsity Girls:

Cassandra Ruiz, junior; Kelly Tonrey, sophomore; Ella Katz, sophomore; Abigail "Abby" Gunther, senior; Mara Khweis, sophomore; Salome Marsh, sophomore; Alyx Mastor, freshman; Erin Manchester-Jones, sophomore; Trine Karlberg, senior; Aaliyah Rael, freshman.

2018 Outlook:

Boys: The Tigers found themselves in a very talented district in 2017. Unable to finish in the top three and quality as a team for state, a longstanding streak fell and only one individual, Eddie Duran, represented Taos in Rio Rancho last November. With such a large contingent of runners coming out for summer workouts, along with several athletes interested in joining the team on the official start day, the boys are poised to make a case for state once again. It will be tough knocking Los Alamos off its perch, but the Tigers could challenge Pojoaque Valley for the No. 2 spot. Improvement is the name of the game, and Gomez has expressed his desire to show weekly gains in strength, confidence, teamwork and mile-splits. "As long as we continue working collectively on these traits, my expectations will be met," said Gomez.

Girls: Moving into a league with Los Alamos poses an interesting challenge for the Lady Tigers. First, Taos has not faced a serious test from another district team for quite a while. Second, it means times (mile-splits) will need to be shaved. Taos is essentially moving up to class 5A, and due to the huge talent pool of singularly committed athletes in these larger schools, the entire roster will need to prepare accordingly. And though Gomez doesn't intend to change his game plan, a paradigm shift could be needed as they find their place in this new nexus, chasing down teams as opposed to being chased.

2018 Cross Country Calendar

Bold - denotes Home meet

Sept. 1, UNM Meet - Albuquerque, 8 a.m.

Sept. 8, Joe Vigil Invitational - Alamosa, Colorado, 8 a.m.

Sept. 15, Taos Invite - Kit Carson Park, 8 a.m

Sept. 22, Ron Valdez Invite - Pecos, 8 a.m.

Sept. 29, Capitol City Invite - Santa Fe, 8 a.m.

Oct. 6, BYE WEEK

Oct. 13, Northern NM Challenge - San Ildefonso, 8 a.m.

Oct. 20, Rio Rancho Jamboree, 8 a.m.

Oct. 26, Los Alamos Invitational, 3 p.m.

Nov. 2, District 2-4A Meet - Pojoaque, T.B.A.

Nov. 10, NM State Meet - Rio Rancho H.S., T.B.A.

Mark your calendar:

Taos will see their new state foes, Albuquerque Academy and Los Alamos two times - at the first and last meets - during the course of the regular season. Both teams are expected to attend the University of New Mexico Lobo Invitational in Albuquerque Sept. 1 and the Los Alamos Invitational Oct. 26. This will give Taos two opportunities to gauge its standing against two of the best teams in the state.

Coach Gomez was hoping to enter his teams in the Albuquerque Academy meet Sept. 28, but was unable to secure a spot in the highly sought invitational race. This would have given the Tigers and Lady Tigers a chance to test their progress in the middle of the season as well.

Along with the Joe Vigil Invite in Alamosa, Colorado Sept. 8, the UNM and Los Alamos races are held on relatively flat golf courses, which usually produce very fast times and exciting finishes. These are also viewer-friendly races with the out and back loop design of each respective course. Many teams from the Four Corners and the western edge of the state, such as Shiprock, Kirtland Central, Aztec and Miyamura (Gallup), are expected to attend these large races, too, giving Gomez and company a clear indicator of potential "dark horse" teams to look out for at state.

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