Despite absence of top two runners, Lady Tigers prevail at NNM Challenge

Peñasco’s Gilly Valdez cracks the top 10 with sixth-place finish among giants, Carly top girl


The true depth of the Taos Lady Tiger cross-country team was revealed at the fifth Northern New Mexico Challenge hosted by Pojoaque Valley High School in the quiet enclave of San Ildefonso Pueblo Oct. 7. Under clear October skies and mild fall conditions, the thin-clad runners came to the annual meet to take on the sandy course and the entire field of 71 runners from the region for Taos’ sixth event of the season.

Absent from the lineup were the Lady Tigers’ top two runners, Cora Cannedy and Ella Katz. But regardless of the missing personnel, Taos was able to come away with another team win – making it the fourth time this season the Lady Tigers have hoisted up the first-place trophy. Collectively, Taos scored 63 points to win by five points over the second-place Santa Fe High Lady Demons, who came in with 68 points. Host team Pojoaque Valley followed close behind with 71 points. Pecos, Santa Fe Indian School and Peñasco came in fourth, fifth and sixth with scores of 113, 115 and 116, respectively.

The venue at the San Ildefonso Pueblo Recreation Center is a spacious area that integrates dirt roads, single-track and two-track trails over a variety of ecological zones, including a winding traverse through the cottonwood groves of the riverside bosque, mild roller-coaster dips along the Río Grande and flat surfaces of the San Ildefonso Pueblo village for a total distance of 3.1 miles. This is the second consecutive year this particular course has been used for the event after it moved from the Santa Fe Municipal Recreation Complex in 2016.

Top scorers for Taos included Erin Manchester-Jones, who placed second overall with a time of 19:25; Abby Gunther, who came in 10th with a time of 20:00; and Cassandra Ruiz, who placed 13th with a time of 20:05. Rounding out the top five runners for Taos were Aaliyah Rael, who earned 16th place with a time of 20:18, and Isabella Padilla, who finished 22nd with a time of 20:36. Kelly Tonrey was the sixth runner for Taos, placing 30th overall with a time of 21:13.

After the meet, dual-sport athletes Padilla, Ruiz and Tonrey – who also play on the Lady Tigers soccer team – traveled back to Taos to participate in a district game in Las Vegas against the Robertson Lady Cardinals on the same day.

On the boys side, the Pojoaque Valley team came away with the first-place trophy for the second straight year, scoring 30 points. Coming in second was Santa Fe Indian School with 53 points, followed by Mesa Vista with 121 points. Taos High School was the fourth-place finisher with 124 points and Pecos rounded out the top five with a score of 146.

Eddie Duran continued his run as the top contender for the Tigers with an 11th-place finish overall with a time of 16:52. Zack Trujillo was directly behind Duran and came in 12th overall with a time of 16:58. Sam Hastings was third for Tigers and 22nd overall with a time of 17:29, followed by Pablo Archuleta, who placed 36th overall with a time of 18:07, and Robert L. Trujillo, who came in 45th with a time of 18:42. There was a total of 77 runners in the boys varsity division.

Peñasco striders

Coming in first for the Lady Panthers and first overall was Carly Gonzales with a time of 19:02 – a 26-second improvement from last year on this course. Gonzales was joined by Maricella MacAuley, who placed 14th overall with a time of 20:14; Adrianna Tafoya, who came in 20th place with a time of 20:33; Martina Tafoya, who placed 39th with a time of 21:43; and Ariana MacAuley, who came in 42nd with a time of 22:01. Jennifer Aguilar was Peñasco’s sixth-place runner, who came in behind Ariana MacAuley in 54th place with a time 23:27. Bianca Contreras placed 62nd overall and seventh for the Lady Panthers with a time of 24:30.

As a team, the Lady Panthers came in sixth place with 116 points. All of the teams that finished in front of Peñasco were much bigger schools, and the Mesa Vista Lady Trojans were the only other team in Class 2A in attendance at the meet. The Lady Trojans finished in 10th place with 312 points.

On the boys side, Gilly Valdez came in sixth with a time of 16:32 to lead the Peñasco boys to an 11th-place finish as a team. Valdez was joined by Jamie Muniz, who placed 54th; Curtis Roque, who came in 60th; Allen Pyne, who placed 61st; and Donovan Mascareñas, who came in 75th.


The Taos Middle School boys team was perfect, with runners coming in one through five for a total of 15 points. Members of the scoring team include Lance Miller, Donavan Duran, Ben Hastings, Elliot Moiz and J.C. Evans.

All teams from Taos and Peñasco will be traveling to Río Rancho for the Río Rancho Jamboree Oct. 14.