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ALBUQUERQUE — Trying to topple one of the top squads in the state at home is tall enough of an order at full strength.
Doing it short-handed, however, makes the job even doubly-complicated.
The Los Alamos Hilltopper girls cross country team found that out first-hand Friday at the Albuquerque Academy Invitational.
Prior to the race, Los Alamos found out it would be without the team’s No. 2 runner Megan Reader. Reader, who had been duking it out with an Achilles tendon problem all season, had a flare-up with it. The Hilltoppers, not wanting to risk further injury, kept her out of Friday’s meet.
Without Reader, a tough assignment ended up being too tough for the Hilltoppers. They finished seventh in the 14-team field at Friday’s meet.
The homestanding Academy Chargers, behind a huge win from junior Clara Milne, won Friday’s meet going away. Julia Foster and Megan Dunlap both cracked the top-10 individually as the Chargers won the team competition by 23 points over second-place La Cueva.
Los Alamos, which garnered 145 points, was paced by Holly Walker’s 19 minute, 50 second effort. She is believed to be just the third Hilltopper to break 20 minutes at Academy.
Behind her, Ariana Rowberry and Hannah Little put on spirited efforts in Reader’s absence, taking 21st and 26th places.
The Academy meet is one of the most important on the Hilltoppers’ schedule each regular season. This season, it carries a bit more significance because it’s the last toughest meet Los Alamos will have until it hosts its own meet Oct. 24.
“It’s right in the middle of the season; it’s a progress measure,” Walker said. “It tells you how far you’ve come.”
Individually, Los Alamos showed some major improvements. Along with Walker’s third-place, sub-20 minute finish, Rowberry chopped nearly 90 seconds off her 2007 time at the meet and Little nearly a minute.
One similarity Los Alamos was hoping the 2008 Academy meet didn’t have to 2007 was that one of its top runners was out. Margaret Wood missed Academy last season due to a hamstring problem.
Los Alamos went with just six runners Friday instead of the seven runners varsity teams are allowed.
Milne, who posted a sub-19 minute finish, started to pull away from the rest of the pack at about the halfway mark, while Walker, at that same spot, was running about four seconds behind Eldorado’s Allison Bedonie.
Bedonie actually led Walker for most of the race, but Walker finally caught and passed her on the final loop heading for the homestretch.
Los Alamos had four runners in the top 30 late in the race and looked like it might give Academy a fright, but Academy would put its decisive victory away in the last mile.
Walker said this team is as hungry for a state title as any she’s seen in her time with the program.
“You have to think that you can do it,” she said. “We want to go out hard and sweep it. This week…everyone has more energy. They’re ready to go.”
Here are the results from Friday’s Albuquerque Academy Invitational. Runners are from Los Alamos unless otherwise indicated.
1. Albuquerque Academy, 74; 2. La Cueva, 97; 3. Rio Rancho, 99; 4. Eldorado, 114; 5. Gallup, 118; 6. Sandia, 135; 7. Los Alamos, 145; 8. Westview, Ore., 192; 9. Pojoaque, 240; 10. Grants, 268; 11. Highland, 273; 12. Laguna-Acoma, 313; 13. Taos, 370; 14. Bernalillo, 392.
1. Clara Milne, Academy, 18:59; 2. Kate Norsong, St. Michael’s, 19:27; 3. Holly Walker, 19:50; 4. Allison Bedonie, Eldorado, 20:01; 5. Julia Foster, Academy, 20:06; 6. Bronwyn Bedrick, Sandia Prep, 20:13; 7. Tamara Lementino, Rio Rancho, 20:20.56; 8. Megan Dunlap, Academy, 20:20.81; 9. Katelyn Jewell, Sandia, 20:25; 10. Jordan Grace, La Cueva, 20:38; 21. Ariana Rowberry, 21:38; 26. Hannah Little, 21:49; 36. Victoria Honnell, 22:06; 74. Elizabeth Brug, 24:09; 76. Victoria Trujiilo, 24:16.