Boys cross country: Roybal leads LA as it holds off host Braves at home

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By Mike Cote

SANTA FE — The second half of the season, traditionally, is when the Los Alamos Hilltopper boys cross country team kicks it up to a whole new level.
At Saturday’s Santa Fe Indian School Invitational, Los Alamos showed that 2010 may be no exception to that rule.
The Hilltoppers picked up a solid victory in Saturday’s race, which takes place on the SFIS campus. The team earned a score of 57, 14 points better than the host Braves, who this year have a solid team and could well be a sleeper at the Class AAA state meet.
Even with some lineup changes, Los Alamos still placed six runners into the top 20 individually at the meet to earn the victory.
Los Alamos has just two meets left prior to its district meet late this month.
In previous years, Los Alamos has shown uncanny ability to make the most out of the latter half of its season, punctuated three years ago by its pulling off one of the most notable Class AAAA state meet upsets when it stunned the heavily-favored Albuquerque Academy.
While an upset in 2010 might even be a bigger shock than 2007, history suggests it’s not out of the realm of possibility.
And that’s something the team’s No. 1 runner this season, Daniel Roybal, is well aware of.
“I think it’s a really good idea that we take these last two meets extremely seriously,” said Roybal, who was just nipped for a top-5 finish by SFIS’ Santiago Pasquale. “Starting at Rio Rancho, it would be good for the team to start strategizing a little more.”
Roybal, who has been Los Alamos’ top finisher in all four of its races this season, got plenty of push from teammates Tim Wermer (eighth, 17:19) and Ian Pulliam (tied for 11th, 17:28).
Individually, the race was won handily by Hope Christian’s Eric Fenton, who was eight seconds better than Pecos’ Antonio Varela.
The SFIS race has been good to Los Alamos in recent years and, according to Los Alamos co-head coach Rob Hipwood, a good, low-key break after some big, stressful races, including the Albuquerque Academy Invitational a week earlier.
Hipwood said this race allows the team to make  roster adjustments to see how some of his top sub-varsity runners can perform at the varsity level.
“Within our program, the (junior varsity) has caught up to the varsity level,” he said. “The competition for the last couple of spots is good. It really helps the varsity.’
Misha Skurikhin took advantage of his first varsity start of the season, finishing in 19th place.
Los Alamos doesn’t have competition scheduled for this week, but could face a slew of top-level opponents the following week at Rio Rancho, a race run on the same course as the state meet.

Team scores
1. Los Alamos, 57; 2. Santa Fe Indian School, 71; 3. Shiprock, 91; 4. Pojoaque, 102; 5. St Michael’s, 130; 6. Pecos, 146; 7. Hope Christian, 168; 8. Santa Fe, 202; 9. ATC, 247; 10. Sandia Prep, 253.

Individual results
1. Eric Fenton, Hope Christian, 16:32; 2. Antonio Varela, Pecos, 16:40; 3. Troy Madalena, Jemez Valley, 16:58; 4. Chad Upshaw, Shiprock, 17:02; 5. Santiago Pasquale, Santa Fe Indian School, 17:05; 6. Daniel Roybal, 17:06; 7. Steven Mora, Santa Fe Indian School, 17:14; 8. Tim Wermer, 17:19; 9. Zach Breshears, 17:27; (tie) Andres Gonzales, St. Michael’s 17:27; 11. Ian Pulliam, 17:28; 15. Nick Hill, 17:42; 19. Misha Skurikhin, 18:03; 20. Sean Reardon, 18:04.