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Now, with the toughest stretch of its regular season behind it, the Los Alamos Hilltopper girls cross country team has learned a few things about itself.
The Hilltoppers took part in the Albuquerque Academy Invitational Friday. The Academy Invitational, despite being a relatively small meet with just 13 teams invited, can be one of the most competitive of the season.
Los Alamos placed fourth in Friday’s meet, garnering 132 team points. The host Academy Chargers won the meet with 63 points, outdistancing Rio Rancho, which finished second.
The Hilltoppers made some lineup changes heading into Friday’s race, putting freshmen Jennifer Mooday and Teresa Sandoval on the junior varsity squad, which they thought would help the two promising youngsters in their attempt to navigate a tricky Academy course for the first time in their prep careers.
But even with the lineup changes, things went pretty well for the Hilltoppers.
“We’re extremely pleased,” Hilltopper co-head coach Rob Hipwood said. “We thought it was a great effort for the entire team, from varsity to C team. We felt that it’s been a long time since we left that meet with as strong a showing across the board as we had.”
Individually for the Hilltoppers, Holly Walker finished fourth. Walker, a senior, was battling a cold throughout the previous week, as were a few other Los Alamos runners.
Although she said she and several of her teammates were still feeling some of the effects of her illness Friday, she’d felt about as well as she’d felt all week and was able to put together a good showing.
“We got over it and we ran tough,” she said. “There’s so much sickness in Los Alamos, but we got over it and packed together well.”
Walker, for her part, was running in and around the seventh spot for much of the race, but started to kick with about three-quarters of a mile remaining and picked off some runners from there on out.
The course, she said, treated her a little better than it had in the past, too.
“It was cool this year because before it’s been a lot sandier,” Walker said. “This year it was a lot more hard-packed. You didn’t sink too much.”
The Academy course is one of the more challenging courses the Hilltoppers run on throughout their season.
It has been a tough previous week for the Hilltoppers. In addition to the sickness around the squad, Los Alamos had just returned for the Liberty Bell Invitational in Denver, where it had a solid eighth-place showing despite going up against some strong competition from around the Rocky Mountain region.
The race was won by Academy’s Julia Foster, who led the race from wire-to-wire. Her time of 19 minutes, 1 second easily topped Rio Rancho’s Jenna Padilla in second place.
For Los Alamos, Victoria Honnell ran an aggressive race early, although that seemed to take its toll somewhat in the race’s later stages. She finished 16th overall.
Megan Reader, who was suffering from a foot injury this season is now mostly over it. Hipwood said she is progressing well after being slowed by the foot problem and finished a solid 21st place.
In the JV girls race, Mooday, Emily Pittman and Sandoval finished first, second and fifth. All three would’ve scored in the varsity race. Hipwood said Mooday and Sandoval will likely be moved back up to varsity for Saturday’s Santa Fe Indian School race and Pittman could well join them.
Here are the results from Friday’s Albuquerque Academy Invitational. Runners are from Los Alamos unless otherwise indicated.
1. Albuquerque Academy, 63; 2. Rio Rancho, 91; 3. La Cueva, 102; 4. Los Alamos, 132; 5. Eldorado, 140; 6. Gallup, 145; 7. St. Michael’s, 152; 8. Volcano Vista, 209; 9. Miyamura, 217; 10. Grants, 261; 11. Laguna-Acoma, 264; 12. Pojoaque, 289; 13. Valley, 353.
1. Julia Foster, Academy, 19:01.53; 2. Jenna Padilla, Rio Rancho, 19:42.66; 3. Tamara Lementino, Rio Rancho, 19:55.84; 4. Holly Walker, 20:13.69; 5. Paige Throckmorton, Academy, 20:16.44; 6. Kate Norskog, St. Michael’s, 20:20.53; 7. Kristy Hannah, Eldorado, 20:30.62; 8. Jordan Grace, La Cueva, 20:34.15; 9. Rebecca Jenks, La Cueva, 20:35.06; 10. Farrah Hood, Gallup, 20:36.72; 16. Victoria Honnell, 21:03.34; 21. Megan Reader, 21:12.62; 49. Sylvia Holland, 22:45.41; 50. Angie Hammer, 22:48.18; 62. Victoria Trujillo, 23:06.84; 70. Elizabeth Brug, 23:31.69.