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At this point in the season, even under the best of conditions, few cross country runners are feeling their best.
But even before the long, grueling season began to take its toll, Megan Reader was having to deal with injury.
Reader has struggled with an Achilles tendon injury since the preseason. While the worst inflammation in the tendon comes and goes, there haven’t been many races this season where it’s been feeling well.
That’s something she said she’s just had to learn to get used to in 2008.
“During races, it normally hurts,” she said. “But during warm-ups, I have to put it behind me. It can affect your race. You can’t think about it.”
Reader was able to put it out of her mind long enough to earn a big finish at Friday’s Los Alamos Invitational. Reader took fourth in a race which featured some solid competition from around Albuquerque and northern New Mexico.
With her time of 19:56, Reader was the lead runner for the Hilltoppers at Friday’s race, which was run at Los Alamos Golf Course. The meet, Los Alamos’ only home appearance of the season, included 11 full teams.
Los Alamos finished third at its home meet, garnering 69 team points. It wasn’t far behind either the winner, Albuquerque Academy, or runner-up Gallup.
“Academy is a good team and we’re a good team,” Reader said. “We’ll be in high spirits when we get running at state.”
Academy, which has beaten Los Alamos in all four of the head-to-head meetings between the teams this season, finished with 51 points, while Gallup, a highly-respected Class AAAAA program, earned 67 points.
Just two weeks shy of the Class AAAA state meet, Los Alamos feels it’s within striking distance of Academy’s Chargers, who, barring injury or other calamity, will go into the state championship meet as the favorite.
“I think we’re fairly pleased with (Friday),” Hilltopper co-head coach Rob Hipwood said. “We’ve got to let the results sink in...but the girls varsity had one of their better meets this year. Running well is a big boost to the team.”
Reader and Walker both made the top 10 for the Hilltoppers on the course, which many runners said was among the tougher courses they run throughout the season.
The race was won by Clara Milne of Academy. Along with her team, Milne, who was undefeated in 2008, will be the odds-on favorite to win the state championship individually.
Milne earned an impressive time of 19:14, about 14-1/2 seconds better than teammate and runner-up Julia Foster.
The top tier of Friday’s race had some impressive names, including Marlinda Pecos of Santa Fe Indian School (who finished third), Jordan Brown of Gallup (sixth) and Pojoaque’s Sophia Torres (ninth).
Milne was in control through most of the race.
Between the 1- and 1.5-mile mark, Pecos and Brown started slicing into a sizeable Milne lead. Milne had about six seconds on them at the 1-mile mark, but the two trailed her by only about 2-1/2 seconds.
That would be about as close as anyone would get to the leader for the rest of the race, however.
Holly Walker, who has been Los Alamos’ top racer for the past two seasons, started the race off strong, but began to get passed in the second mile.
Walker finished 10th overall with a time of 20:39.
Hannah Little and Ariana Rowberry were third and fourth among the Hilltopper finishers Friday, while Victoria Honnell rounded out the top five.
“The team is really happy for the most part,” said Honnell, whose time of 21:40 was good enough for 24th place. “Most of the race we stuck together. We pulled each other along through the whole course.”
The Hilltoppers will have a relatively easy week of workouts as they prepare for the District 2AAAA meet Thursday. That meet will determine if they advance to the state meet.
Here are the girls results from Friday’s Los Alamos Invitational cross country meet. Runners are from Los Alamos unless otherwise indicated.
1. Albuquerque Academy, 51; 2. Gallup, 67; 3. Los Alamos, 69; 4. Cibola, 101; 5. Santa Fe Indian School, 157; 6. Manzano, 161; (tie) Santa Fe Prep, 161; 8. Pojoaque, 216; 9. Taos, 284; 10. Highland, 287; 11. Santa Fe, 305; Capital, n/s; Bernalillo, n/s; Pecos, n/s.
1. Clara Milne, Academy, 19:14; 2. Julia Foster, Academy, 19:29; 3. Marlinda Pecos, Santa Fe Indian School, 19:40; 4. Megan Reader, 19:56; 5. Emma Hamilton, Santa Fe Prep, 20:04; 6. Jordan Brown, Gallup, 20:11; 7. Andrea Gillson, Gallup, 20:18; 8. Ashley Lovato, Cibola, 20:19; 9. Sophia Torres, Pojoaque, 20:28; 10. Holly Walker, 20:39; 15. Hannah Little, 20:57; 16. Ariana Rowberry, 21:02; 24. Victoria Honnell, 21:40; 28. Elizabeth Brug, 21:58; 39. Victoria Trujillo, 22:34.