Cross country: LA primed to grab two big wins at 2AAAA title races

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By Mike Cote

The only question concerning the outcome of the 2010 District 2AAAA cross country championships is not who will win, but by how much.
Both the Los Alamos Hilltopper boys and girls cross country teams are the favorites to win in Friday’s district meet, which will be run at Santa Fe’s Municipal Recreation Center just off N.M. 599.
As usual, the Hilltoppers are King Kong-sized favorites heading into the race.
During the regular season, none of the other district teams, Bernalillo, Capital, Española Valley or Santa Fe, have so much as laid a glove on the Hilltoppers. That is unlikely to change heading into Friday’s race, particularly after the Hilltoppers’ impressive showing at last week’s Los Alamos Invitational.
At that race, held at Los Alamos Golf Course, the Hilltopper girls swept places four through nine to easily outdistance all comers. The Hilltopper boys, meanwhile, finished a strong second behind only their arch-rival Albuquerque Academy Chargers.
Los Alamos has won all 10 previous district races since the 2000 season when the district, in the bulk of its present form, was created. Not one of those 10 contests has been close.
Prior to the season, Hilltopper co-head coaches Rob and Kathy Hipwood felt that the addition of Santa Fe in 2010 would make the district meet a little more interesting.
Santa Fe, the host of Friday’s meet, is coached by Peter Graham, a former teammate of Rob Hipwood at Adams State College. Graham has had some success coaching the Blue Demons, but little would suggest based on the season-to-date results that even on a good day the Demons will be able to hang with the Hilltoppers.
In the two most recent head-to-head races between Los Alamos and Santa Fe, the Demons haven’t been a factor. The Santa Fe girls scored nearly 500 points at Rio Rancho and the Demon boys were well over the 500 mark at that same race.
Los Alamos’ girls won that race with 67 points and the Los Alamos boys were third with 133.
Santa Fe’s boys were not a factor at the Los Alamos Invitational, finishing next-to-last in team standings.
Santa Fe’s girls didn’t field a team at the race.
Friday, both the Hilltopper boys and girls teams will have at least a shot of a five-place sweep. Few district runners this season have given any of the Hilltoppers’ top five finishers much of a run for their money.
One of those few, however, was Marisol Mendoza of Bernalillo. Mendoza finished in the top 10 at the Los Alamos Invitational.
Individually on the Hilltopper girls side, there is no clear-cut favorite for a district championship. Emily Pittman, last week’s top finisher for Los Alamos, has been the team’s most consistent runner this season, but almost any of the Hilltoppers on the 9-runner roster — the limit was expanded from 7 to 9 for the district races earlier this season by the New Mexico Activities Association — could make a run at an individual title.
One of Los Alamos’ seniors, Victoria Honnell, is tentatively scheduled to run for Los Alamos Friday, but she has been battling illness and may sit out.
For the boys, Daniel Roybal appears to be the one to beat heading into the race. Roybal, the team’s No. 1 all season, might only get a big push from teammates Tim Wermer and Ian Pulliam.
Holly Walker and Kyle Pittman took the top 2AAAA honors for Los Alamos last season. Both have since graduated.
The top returning finishers for Los Alamos are Jennifer Mooday on the girls side and Pulliam on the boys side. Both finished as the 2AAAA runners-up.
Los Alamos’ girls won the 2009 district race with a perfect score of 15. Mooday, Megan Reader, Pittman and Honnell all placed in the top five.
Los Alamos’ boys just missed out on a perfect score, earning 18 points and picking up six of the race’s top seven slots. All seven of the team’s runners, Pulliam, Roybal, Wermer, Alexander Romero, Zach Breshears and Josh Bowman, finished in the top 10 overall.
The district race is the only chance teams get to qualify for the state championship. The top team and top 10 individuals earn spots at the state title race.