A crisp autumn morning became a sunny day for the Rio Rancho Jamboree, where 1,350 cross country runners from all over the state completed the 5,000-meter course. …
A crisp autumn morning became a sunny day for the Rio Rancho Jamboree, where 1,350 cross country runners from all over the state completed the 5,000-meter course. Dozens of team tents splashed color on the field adjacent to the starting line for the eight-race event.
Taos' boys and girls teams faced a 3.1-mile course of dirt, pavement, concrete, turf and hills of sand. On this dry morning, the sand presented a particular challenge, giving way with each footfall.
The reigning AAAA State Champion Taos Lady Tigers met stiff competition in the girls championship race. By their start time of 10:30 a.m., the wispy clouds had burned off and the day had grown noticeably warm. Alyx Mastor managed the course in 20 minutes and 30.2 seconds for a 22nd place finish among the 189 runners in the girls championship heat.
The finishing places of the top five runners for each team are added together to determine team placements. The Lady Tigers finished 20th with 468 points and an average time of 22:31.20. For comparison, the average time of the first-place team in the girls large school varsity event was 22:17.8.
Meanwhile, the Tiger boys generated a strong sixth-place finish with 267 points and an average course time of 19:00.58 in the large school championship race. Eddie Duran put up a good fight at the finish line to earn 19th place out of 223.
Redistricting has put Albuquerque Academy and Los Alamos, two of the best teams in the Southwest, with Taos to fight for the 4A title. However, both Los Alamos and Academy were notably absent from the meet. They may have taken the week off to rest up for the Oct. 26 meet hosted by Los Alamos next week.
"We will, however, do our best like we always have," head coach Bruce Gomez said. "Our goal is to collectively run our best for the final three meets."
Coach Gomez remarked that this weekend gave the team a preview of the difficult course as they head toward the State meet Nov. 10, which is also at Rio Rancho.
For those wishing to see a preview of the competition at State, Taos will race against both Albuquerque Academy and Los Alamos at the Los Alamos meet at 3 p.m. Friday, (Oct. 26). Their final two meets are the District 2 4A championship at Pojoaque, Nov. 3 and State a Rio Rancho, Nov. 10.
The Peñasco Panthers are no strangers to success at the Rio Rancho cross country course, and they put on a strong showing at the Rio Rancho Jamboree Oct. 20.
While the boys team was one runner shy of the five needed for a team placement, Freshman Gilbert Valdez had wings in his shoes. After running most of the race in third position, he was in fourth as he approached the final straightaway into the stadium, right at the heels of Justin James of Valley High School.
Valdez had to dig deep to pull ahead of James in the 20 yards before the finish line. His determination and training made it possible, and he finished third overall in the small school varsity race with a time of 17 minutes and 33.9 seconds.
Defending A-2A State Champions, the Peñasco girls placed third with 108 points and an average time of 23:50.48. Carley Gonzalez, who won state last year on the same course with a time of 20:36.55, earned a sixth-place at 21:44.06.
The Peñasco girls were 61 points out of second place. The Academy for Technology & The Classics team and Pecos ran well, finishing with 40 and 47 points, respectively. The combined times of their top five runners were 22:00.94 for ATC and 22:07.40 for Pecos.
The Peñasco Panthers have one week to rest before they host the District 2A meet on Nov. 2. On Nov.10 the Panthers will run the Rio Rancho course again in the state meet, with an eye toward taking home another Girls Small School title and maybe some hardware for Gilbert Valdez.
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