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Girls cross country: LA cruises to big win, Sandoval is runner-up

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By Mike Cote

SANTA FE — Heading into the stretch run of the 2010 season, the Los Alamos Hilltopper girls cross country team was looking to get some momentum going.
The Hilltoppers may have just gotten that with a big outing Saturday.
At Saturday’s Santa Fe Indian School Invitational, the Hilltoppers took control early and never let go, packing well together at the front of the course and never looking back. The Hilltoppers got all seven of their runners across the finish line before any other competing school managed to get two across as they cruised to a big victory.
“I’m feeling excited, we had a great race,” Los Alamos’ top finisher Teresa Sandoval said. “I’m pretty sure the team is happy with what happened.”
Sandoval, Eliana Riciputi and Emily Pittman took the 2-3-4 slots Saturday, finishing behind St. Michael’s superstar Kate Norskog.
Riciputi actually led the race for a good portion of the first two miles, coming off of the starting line strong and keeping pace with a very good Class AAAA runner, Autumnrain Chee of Shiprock.
Norskog stayed within a few seconds of the lead pack throughout the race, which was run around Santa Fe Indian School’s athletic facilities on the SFIS campus, then made her move around the end of the second mile.
But Sandoval, who was looking to bounce back after twisting her ankle at the halfway point of last week’s Albuquerque Academy Invitational, otherwise held her position at the front of the race throughout the last mile, while Riciputi did likewise.
A week earlier at Academy, Los Alamos was still feeling the effects of a long trip to Colorado to compete in the Liberty Bell Invitational and couldn’t drum up enough get-up-and-go in that race to hang with Academy, with which it will likely have another showdown at the state AAAA championship.
Los Alamos co-head coach Rob Hipwood said his team’s 50-point margin of victory should give it an emotional lift.
“The next element we hope is overall confidence,” Hipwood said. “We need to develop our confidence right now. We have tremendous confidence in our teams...we’ll work on our mental approach and hopefully we’ll have a good week of training.”
Los Alamos doesn’t have a meet scheduled for this week, which Hipwood said should help both the girls and boys prepare for the Rio Rancho Jamboree the following week — that race is run on the same course as the state meet.
Pittman, whose time of 20:46 placed her five seconds ahead of Chee, said if the Hilltoppers can continue to run the way they ran Saturday, they could close out the regular season strong once again.
“As a team, we’ve gotten a lot closer,” she said. “We’ve gotten really better at packing up and staying close. If we can do that and push the pace a little more, we’ll do really well.”

Team scores
1. Los Alamos, 24; 2. St. Michael’s, 74; 3. Shiprock, 82; 4. Las Vegas Robertson, 94; 5. Santa Fe Indian School, 111; 6. Pojoaque Valley, 158; 7. Fenton, 168.

Individual results
1. Kate Norskog, St. Michael’s, 20:08; 2. Teresa Sandoval, 20:35; 3. Eliana Riciputi, 20:37; 4. Emily Pittman, 20:46; 5. Autumnrain Chee, Shiprock, 20:51; 6. Kaitlin Hutchinson, Las Vegas Robertson, 21:14; 7. Janali Gustafson, 21:39; 8. Megan Reader, 21:53; 9. Victoria Honnell, 22:10; 10. Kara Shain, Santa Fe, 22:11; 11. Sylvia Holland, 22:13.