Boys cross country: Toppers have solid finish, gain ground on Academy

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By Mike Cote

In 2003 when the Los Alamos Hilltopper boys cross country team upset heavily-favored Albuquerque Academy for the state Class AAAA title, it had its best showing of the regular season at the Los Alamos Invitational.
In 2007 when the Hilltoppers upset the heavily-favored Academy Chargers for the state Class AAAA title, they had their best showing of the season at the Los Alamos Invitational.
Could the 2010 Los Alamos Invitational be a harbinger of things to come?
Only the next two weeks will tell. For now, however, the Hilltoppers will get prepared for the District 2AAAA championship meet knowing the gap between themselves and the Chargers is as narrow as it has been all season.
Los Alamos finished with 45 points at Friday’s Los Alamos Invitational, a scant total but still not enough to top nationally-ranked Academy, which scored just 27 points to win the race.
Nevertheless, the Hilltoppers could hardly be feeling better as the regular season shuts down and the postseason begins.
“It’s always our goal to close the gap with Academy,” Los Alamos runner Ian Pulliam said. “They’re a good team and that’s our goal, to catch them. This year, we keep building our goals higher and higher.”
While Los Alamos’ individual runners, throughout the course of Friday’s race stayed within striking distance of the Chargers, the mighty Chargers, who have won every Class AAAA championship of the last decade except the aforementioned Hilltopper upsets, were able to put the race away in the last half mile.
Academy was without one of its top runners, Jefferson Reider, although Academy’s Neil Longenbaugh is no slouch, either. Longenbaugh, a seasoned Charger runner, was the top individual finisher Friday, posting a time of 16:25, holding off another solid runner, Eric Fenton of Hope Christian.
Pacing the Hilltoppers once again was Daniel Roybal. Roybal, who has been a solid No. 1 runner for the team all season, earned a time of 16:52, outkicking Academy’s Louis Jochems in the last 150 meters.
Roybal led three Hilltopper racers who finished the top 10 – Tim Wermer and Pulliam were the others – but Academy, not to be outdone, placed four runners in the top 10.
It’s still very much an uphill climb for Los Alamos to catch up with Academy with less than two weeks remaining before the state meet, but it’s one that the team has traversed before.
“We have always felt this team could do really well,” Los Alamos co-head coach Rob Hipwood said. “It’s taken a little longer than we thought, but they have a good attitude.”
At about the halfway point in the race Friday, Academy had five of its runners holding onto the top eight spots in the race, although Los Alamos had three runners of its own less than 10 seconds back.
While Los Alamos, or any other team, for that matter, hasn’t yet qualified for the state meet, it should have little problem doing so this season.
Friday’s race was an impressive ending to the regular season, something the Hilltoppers believe they can build off of heading into the postseason.
“It was beautiful,” Pulliam said. “The whole team came through. Everyone pushed each other.”

Boys varsity

Team scores

1. Albuquerque Academy, 27; 2. Los Alamos, 45; 3. Santa Fe Indian School, 116; 4. Manzano, 139; 5. Pojoaque, 175; 6. Cibola, 177; 7. Santa Fe Prep, 185; 8. Highland, 195; 9. Hope Christian, 218; 10. West Mesa, 251; 11. Santa Fe, 265; 12. Taos, 288.

Individual results

1. Neil Longenbaugh, Academy, 16:25; 2. Eric Fenton, Hope, 16:36; 3. Emmett Wynn, Academy, 16:43; 4. Daniel Roybal, 16:52; 5. Louis Jochems, Academy, 16:56; 6. Maurice Cruz, Academy, 16:59; 7. Tim Wermer, 17:05; 8. Ian Pulliam, 17:05; 9. Jimmy Buchanan, Santa Fe Prep, 17:12; 10. Manuel Trevizo, Highland, 17:12;

11. Alexander Romero, 17:15; 15. Nick Hill, 17:23; 29. Sean Reardon, 17:58; 35. Zach Breshears, 18:13.