Boys track and field: LA wins big, tops two school bests

-A A +A
By Mike Cote

Thanks in no small part to a blazing 800-meter split by Gareth Gilna, the Los Alamos Hilltopper boys 1600-meter medley team posted a new school-best mark in the event Friday.

Gilna, a premier distance runner for the Hilltoppers, ran a ridiculous split of 1:55.56 — one of his two laps was clocked at just over 55 seconds — as the team of Gilna, Jason Reagor, Benigno Sandoval and Corey Clark posted a 3:31.36 victory at Friday’s Los Alamos Qualifier track and field meet held at Sullivan Field.

Friday’s meet was the season finale for the Hilltoppers, who will host the District 2AAAA meet this weekend. The Hilltoppers, even with their stated strategy of letting most of their top names have an easy go of it, will be the heavy favorites to win their ninth-straight district title.

Los Alamos was a big winner Friday in team competition, compiling 215 points, nearly as many as the next three teams put together.

The victory might have been even more lopsided but for another hamstring injury suffered by sprinter Raul Rodriguez.

Rodriguez pulled his left hamstring muscle on the second leg of the 400-meter relay Friday, an event in which Los Alamos was expected to win and just 130 meters in was starting to pull away from the rest of the competition.

Rodriguez has struggled with hamstring problems all season.

Los Alamos head coach Larry Baca said he wasn’t sure about Rodriguez’s status, but it’s a safe bet that he’ll be sidelined at least for this week.

Along with his performance in the record-setting medley relay, Sandoval also set his own school history-making record in the pole vault.

Sandoval eclipsed the school record in the event late in the evening of Friday’s competition, clearing 14 feet, 8 inches, one inch better than the previous mark set by John Schroeder in 1994.

Benigno is the third Sandoval to grace his name on the Hilltoppers’ all-time board. Noah Sandoval helped the 400 relay team from 2008 to that school-best mark and Tony Sandoval, an Olympic qualifier in 1980, with his run in the 3200 meters dating back to 1972.

Gilna’s split in the medley would be the best time posted in AAAA for an 800 this season and makes him an instant contender for a state title in the event. In an open 800, Taylor Murray of Albuquerque Academy has produced the best time to date.

At Friday’s meet, the Hilltoppers won 12 events, with Sandoval winning both the pole vault and the 100 meters, edging out Derek Vigil of Española Valley by .03 seconds.

Meanwhile, Hilltopper Garrett Idler, one of the team’s ironmen, started out the day by winning the high jump, topping teammate Brett Hill with his jump of 6 feet.

Idler was scrambling to keep up with all his events early in the meet. He left javelin early to take his high jumps, then had to leave midway through that to check in at the triple jump pit. Not long after, he had his 110-meter hurdle running event.

Idler said he’s been bothered by shin splints most of the season, with his legs taking a pounding due to all his jumps.

“It’s really hard on the legs,” Idler said. “The javelin is a good break because it’s a throwing event...but through the high jump, javelin and the hurdles, I’ve stayed pretty shin-splint free.”

It was the seventh-straight week Idler had cleared the 6-foot mark, but the 6-2 mark has to this point eluded him.

To get there, he said, he would need to improve his back arch as he clears the bar, something he wants to work on these last few weeks of the season.

Also Friday, Kevin Hemphill and Nat Gustafson became the fourth and fifth runners from Los Alamos to qualify for state in the 3,200 meters.

Hemphill won the event with a time of 10:01.22 and Gustafson finished right behind him in 10:03.00 to earn entry to the meet, which starts May 15 in Albuquerque.

The Hilltoppers aren’t likely to face any serious challenge to their district supremacy this season — Taos and Capital have a few solid athletes between them but not enough to make much of a dent, even if Los Alamos runs lean this weekend.

Baca said he’s going to be more-or-less content with letting the chips fall where they may in district to give his top athletes a breather.

“We’re going to rest,” he said. “We’re going to let the younger kids compete. Our varsity kids are banged up, so we’ll give them a rest.”