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Cross country: Pittman signs with the Lobos

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By Mike Cote

Another of the top prep athletes in the state coming out of Los Alamos High School is staying close to home.

Kyle Pittman, the premier cross country and track distance runner, has decided to attend the University of New Mexico starting this fall. Pittman was honored in a ceremony Wednesday at Los Alamos High School.

When he does get to Albuquerque following this, his senior year, he will be joining brother Allen with the Lobo cross country squad. Kyle is expected to join both the cross country and track and field teams at UNM.

Pittman, a two-time state cross country champion and one of the top-rated runners in the Southwest, would likely have had his choice of a number of colleges, but he had been interested in UNM’s program for some time.

“It’s as good a school as anywhere else, honestly,” Pittman said. “You could go to a really big school and screw around and not get anything out of it, but a school like UNM…you get out of it the work you put into it.”

Pittman, for the bulk of his prep career, has been as feared a runner as there was in the state, but truly made his presence felt as part of a powerful running triumvirate, which included Allen and Gareth Gilna — two other Division-I college runners — during Pittman’s sophomore season.

That year, not only did Los Alamos stun Albuquerque Academy to win the Class AAAA boys state championship, but it finished as the runner-up at Nike Cross Nationals late in 2007.

In 2008, Pittman finished as the state Class AAAA individual champion, then in 2009, just two weeks after suffering his lone season defeat in New Mexico, repeated as champion in dominant fashion. Pittman topped runner-up Pat Zacharias, another highly-touted D-I prospect, by a full 11 seconds in the state championship race.

Following the 2009 prep season, Pittman finished fourth in Nike’s Southwest regional, sending him back to nationals for the third straight season.

Pittman is the second prominent Hilltopper who will continue his athletic career with the Lobos next year. Los Alamos basketball star Alex Kirk signed with the Lobos in November.

Pittman said that having brother Allen, a redshirt freshman last year, at UNM was a pretty major factor in his decision to become a Lobo, but it was hardly the only factor.

“The coaches seem really cool,” he said. “I spent a long time with them on my official visit. I liked the people on the team, both the guys and girls. They’re pretty similar to Los Alamos’ teams. They hang out together outside of cross country.”

The visit Pittman took to Albuquerque, in early February, ended up being the only official visit of his five allotted school visits he would take.

The Lobos have a solid cross country program and are coming off their best season in program history. The men’s team qualified for the 2009 NCAA championship and placed eighth at the event, scoring 350 points.

The program is led by Joe Franklin, who has coached the program for three years.

Pittman said at the ceremony he was ready to move on to the rest of his academic year and his track and field season, although he has already assured himself of one more state championship appearance, scoring a qualifying time in the 3,200 at last week’s Rio Rancho Chili Quad.

He said he would like to study medicine or psychology in some capacity when he gets to UNM, but he said he’s sure he will look back fondly on his time spent under the tutelage of LAHS coaches Rob and Kathy Hipwood.

“It was fun,” he said. “There will be great memories I’ll have for later. The main thing, I think, is more that group I got to have, getting close to the Hipwoods, getting close to friends. The accomplishments are just the icing.”