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Boys track and field: Toppers turn in uneven spring break showing

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By Mike Cote

With people going out of town, the spring break week is often a crapshoot around the Los Alamos Hilltopper boys track and field team.

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And while longtime Los Alamos head coach Larry Baca has come to terms with that after 26 years, this season’s spring break left him unamused.

Baca said a dozen Hilltopper athletes were absent without leave this week, which was a big problem for his team.

“Our attitude over this spring break was pretty disastrous,” Baca said. “It’s never been that bad. A lot of kids didn’t see that it was important and it showed today.”

Los Alamos made its home debut for the 2010 season Saturday, hosting the Los Alamos Quadrangular. The team finished with 142 points, second behind Belen, which grabbed 170 points to take the meet’s team title.

Despite the problems during the week, a fair share of the Hilltoppers were able to pull things together for Saturday’s meet, perhaps none more so than Daniel Rodriguez, who had three impressive relay showings Saturday and will likely remain part of the relays through the balance of the season.

Rodriguez, who’s a senior but who’s competing in track and field for the first time this season, helped the 1600 relay team to its best time of the season, missing a state Class AAAA qualifying mark by 1.25 seconds.

Along with those finishes, Rodriguez also finished third in Saturday’s long jump. He said he’s been working on his technique this week in practice and it’s starting to pay off.

“I think I did pretty well, especially on that first jump,” said Rodriguez, who posted a personal best 18 feet, 11 inches. “Usually when I jump, I get out. Now, I’m working on height to get more distance.”

On the day, Los Alamos won seven events including three throwing events, the team’s bread-and-butter. Austin Wolstein took both the shot put and discus competitions and teammate Kory Balog won the javelin.

In the distance races, Ian Pulliam put together one of his best career performances in the 3,200 meters, while Hilltopper distance star Kyle Pittman, despite battling with a stomach bug this weekend, finished second in the 800, just getting nipped at the finish line by Hope’s John Cordova.

For another of Los Alamos’ top athletes, Tom Day, Saturday’s meet was a mixed bag.

While Day came away with a .01 second victory over Zachary Martin in the 110 hurdles, Day failed in three pole vault attempts to clear 11 feet, a height he rarely has trouble with. While Day appeared to have cleared the height easily on his first two attempts, he struggled to clear his pole and clipped the bar twice on his way down. It was the only height Day attempted.

Day said he was only able to get one workout on pole vault in this week, part of the reason he couldn’t find his rhythm.

Teammate Chris Ryan, who tied his lifetime best by easily clearing 10-6 in his first try, ended up winning Saturday’s event.

While Baca said this week’s struggles could potentially set the team back, he said there wasn’t much else to do at this point but push on.

“We’re just going to have to compete,” he said of his team’s appearance at the Capital City Invitational this week. “We’re going to go and try to improve.”

The boys and girls results from Saturday’s Los Alamos Quadrangular will appear in Tuesday’s Monitor.

NOTE: Saturday’s meet had originally been scheduled for Thursday of last week, but was postponed. Baca said the postponement was actually a boon for the meet, as there would likely not have been enough volunteers to pull the meet off. Baca said he was thankful for the volunteer support at Saturday’s event.