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RIO RANCHO — To take down the giant, the Los Alamos Hilltopper boys cross country team did just about everything it needed to do.
Unfortunately for Los Alamos, however, the giant didn’t cooperate.
Los Alamos put together a strong effort at the Class AAAA state championship race Saturday morning, taking three of the top 13 individual slots. But the Albuquerque Academy Chargers did what they do best, dominate the front part of the race and hold on until the end.
The Chargers won their third consecutive state team title Saturday at Rio Rancho High School, finishing with 37 total points. The Hilltoppers, who finished second for the third straight year behind the Chargers, were the only other team at the competition to finish with under 145 points, earning 59 points.
Academy, which has been nationally ranked throughout the season, took the No. 1 and No. 3 spots in the race, while the other members of its pack had solid outings as well to clinch the title.
“Academy’s a really good team,” Hilltopper senior Daniel Roybal said. “They train really well. We still have regionals in a couple of weeks. We’ll give a run to Academy then.”
Roybal finished as the seventh-place finisher overall, equaling his finish from 2009.
The top individual, Neil Longenbaugh of Academy, was at or near the head of the race virtually the entire time. Longenbaugh has been a standout runner his entire career, but said he individual title was little more than a secondary concern to him.
“It feels amazing,” said Longenbaugh, who clocked a 16:10.05, topping Artesia’s Alex Bradbury by about 5.5 seconds. “It’s good to have your teammates to help support you. It could’ve been anyone of us to take it. I’m lucky to have the opportunity to be the one to take it for the team.”
Los Alamos was upset-minded heading into the AAAA title race. It has been the only team since 2000 to have knocked off Academy in the state championship, a feat it accomplished in both 2003 and 2007.
After a strong finish to the season, including its best showing of the season head-to-head against the Chargers two weeks earlier at the Los Alamos Invitational, Los Alamos thought it had a shot to knock Academy off its perch.
Following Roybal, Tim Wermer finished 12th individually and 10th among team competitors, followed right behind by Alexander Romero, both of whom had run near Academy’s pack for most of the race.
Romero missed workout time in preparation for the race last week with illness, but still managed one of his best finishes of the season.
While it was as good a showing as the Hilltoppers could’ve hoped for, the Chargers still remain the king of the AAAA hill for one more season.
“The boys ran exceptionally well,” Los Alamos co-head coach Rob Hipwood said. “It’s safe to say it was our best performance of the year. They felt good about it. We’re very proud of the effort and the results.
Academy started to move ahead around the start of the third mile, however, and kept its advantage through to the end.
Roybal said afterward he and a couple of his teammates started cramping during Saturday’s race. Roybal said he felt a fairly intense side cramp around the race’s halfway point and had to struggle through to make the finish.
Roybal outkicked Christopher Dominguez of St. Pius in the final 100 meters to hold on to his seventh-place spot.
While the prep season is now over, the Hilltoppers already have an eye toward the Nike Cross regional meet, which is set for Nov. 20 in Phoenix.
“I’m really proud of our season, this whole senior year,” Roybal said. “Our team’s really proud of the season. This is the best cross country season I’ve ever had, and I think I speak for the rest of the team as well.”
Here are the results from the 2010 Class AAAA state championship race. Runners are from Los Alamos unless otherwise indicated.
1. Albuquerque Academy, 37; 2. Los Alamos, 59; 3. Belen, 145; 4. Gallup, 162; 5. Artesia, 168; 6. Piedra Vista, 182; 7. St. Pius X, 201; 8. Santa Teresa, 218; 9. Del Norte, 220; 10. Grants, 246; 11. Goddard, 303; 12. Farmington, 344; 13. Kirtland Central, 363; 14. Santa Fe, 365; 15. Española Valley, 384; 16. Chaparral, 437.
1. Neil Longenbaugh, Academy, 16:10; 2. Alex Bradbury, Artesia, 16:15; 3. Maurice Cruz, Academy, 16:17; 4. Evan Bekes, Bloomfield, 16:19; 5. Jacksons Thomsa, Del Norte, 16:19; 6. Stephen Carbajal, Belen, 16:28; 7. Daniel Roybal, 16:31; 8. Christopher Dominguez, St. Pius X, 16:32; 9. Louis Jochems, Academy, 16:34; 10. Allan Quezada, Valencia, 16:36;
11. Eduardo Lash, Gallup, 16:37.20; 12. Tim Wermer, 16:37.65; 13. Alexander Romero, 16:40; 14. Jeff Rieder, Academy, 16:47; 15. Emmett Wynn, Academy, 16:48; 16. Zach Breshears, 16:49; 17. Andre Miller, Santa Fe, 16:51.00; 18. Ashur Rael, Academy, 16:51.95; 19. Austin Anaya, Moriarty, 16:52; 20. Irwin Vera, Santa Teresa, 16:53;
21. Ian Pulliam, 16:54; 23. Sean Reardon, 16:59; 28. Josh Bowman, 17:09.