Lady Tigers reign supreme in class 4A jungle

Gathered together near a raucous Taos crowd who made the trip to witness the Taos Lady Tigers win another state title, members of the girls cross-country team pose for a another victory photo inside Rio Rancho Stadium Nov. 4. The Lady Tigers came in one, two, three, nine and sixteen (in points) to earn an all-time low score of 31 to win their fourth state championship in five years. Standing left to right are: Aaliyah Rael, Erin Manchester-jones, Ella Katz, Cora Cannedy, Abby Gunther, Kelly Tonrey and Alyx Mastor. Arcenio J. Trujillo

The questions on the tongues of other girls cross-country teams in class 4A before this year's cross-country championships in Rio Rancho had to be: “Will we see a crack in the Taos Lady Tigers' roster and have a chance at the 4A state title this year?” Another pertinent question: “Is there light at the end of this tunnel?”

The short answers: No and yes.

No, to the idea that the Lady Tigers' roster was vulnerable in any way from places one to seven. Though they only had one senior running (Cora Cannedy) at the New Mexico State Cross-country championships Nov. 4, Taos completely dominated the field and delivered their lowest score ever – 31 points to win by 45 points over the next place team, the Hope Christian Lady Huskies who tallied 76. The throttling came on the heels and toes of Taos's fielded team, which included one junior, four freshmen and one eighth-grader to accompany upperclassman Cannedy.

To put the race in perspective, all of Taos' scoring (top five) runners crossed the finish line a full 35-seconds before Hope Christian's number four and five runners. Also, Taos' entire contingent of seven runners – which included the top five scoring runners and the two non-scorers in place six and seven for Taos – were done before the Lady Huskies' fifth and final scoring runner crossed the finish line.

Katz individual state champ

One of the highlights of the day was the emergence of three Lady Tigers making their way into the entrance of the Rio Rancho football stadium after the final “horseshoe” feature of the race – a 100-yard segment of stadium parking lot where runners jostle for position before their final homestretch kick to the finish line along the sideline the football turf. Turning the final corner, and revealing herself as the race leader was Taos freshman, Ella Katz, who would conquer the 3-mile course in 20:18.80. Coming in behind Katz was Cannedy, who would earn the runner-up position for the third year in a row with a time of 20:26.45. Her efforts were challenged, however, by Taos eighth-grader, Alyx Mastor who sprinted side-by-side with Cannedy, but was edged in the final dozen steps by the senior to garner the third spot with a time of 20:27.05.

Rounding out the top five were freshman, Erin Manchester-jones who came in fourth for Taos and tenth overall with a time of 21:05.05 and freshman Kelly Tonrey who placed fifth for the Lady Tigers and 18th overall, recording a time of 21:45.05. The sixth runner for Taos and 20th overall was freshman, Aaliyah Rael who posted a time of 21:50.30. The seventh runner for the Lady Tigers was junior, Abby Gunther who placed 28th overall with a time 22:14.90.

The win gave Taos it's fourth state title in five years and the seventh blue trophy in either cross-country or track and field (both boys and girls) for Hall of Fame coach Bruce Gomez.

The top five scoring teams in the state meet included Taos (31), Hope Christian (76), Shiprock (98), Robertson (129) and Navajo Prep (136).

As for the second question: Indeed, there is light at the end of the tunnel for other teams, however, it is a train.

Make it a bullet train.

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