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SANTA FE — While the Los Alamos Hilltopper girls cross country team was missing several of its usual starters Saturday, no one seemed to mind too much.
Los Alamos’ girls finished third at Saturday’s Santa Fe Indian School Invitational, which was run around the athletic facilities on the Indian School campus. Los Alamos finished behind a very tough Class A-AA school, Navajo Pine, and the defending AAAA champion Belen Eagles at the meet.
The course was fast, many of the Hilltoppers said, owing both to the fact that it was generally devoid of big hills and slightly shorter than the usual 3.12 miles run in prep cross country.
“It was a good course,” Los Alamos’ Victoria Trujillo said after Saturday’s race. “I like it because it’s flat and (made of) dirt. It’s really nice.”
Trujillo said that while the course made for an easier run physically than most the team has seen this season, it’s more mentally challenging because of several long, flat stretches that can take one’s edge off.
“That’s the part you have to worry about because it’s long and you can lose focus,” she said.
Apparently, most of the Hilltoppers were able to keep their focus enough to pick up the third-place finish.
Holly Walker, the team’s top runner for the past two seasons, finished third individually Saturday, grinding out a time of 18:43.
Walker actually trailed Marlinda Pecos of the host Braves by approximately six seconds heading into the race’s final 300 meters — which was run on the Braves’ oval track — but outkicked Pecos to beat her by eight seconds.
Saturday’s individual title was won by Kate Norsong of St. Michael’s, who has consistently been the top runner out of the northern part of the state in 2008. Norsong blew away all comers with her finish of 18:10.
Aleona Reyes, Belen’s top runner, took second individually.
Saturday’s meet was the second time Los Alamos and Belen met head-to-head this season. At the University of New Mexico Invitational, the Hilltoppers finished four slots and 75 points ahead of the Eagles.
In 2007, Belen became the first team other than Los Alamos or Albuquerque Academy to win the girls AAAA state title in this decade.
Los Alamos’ No. 2 runner, Megan Reader, missed the varsity race for the second straight week, due to her performance in a band competition. Instead, Reader ran in the junior varsity race — which was held about an hour before the varsity race — and posted a time of 19:05, which would’ve placed her in the top six among the varsity finishers.
At Academy eight days earlier, Reader, who has been struggling with Achilles tendon problems, had that tendon tighten up shortly before the race and was held out.
Ariana Rowberry and Hannah Little were also absent from the usual lineup Saturday.
The absences, however, gave the Hilltoppers a chance to look at some people either coming up from the JV or having to elevate their races to make up for the missing personnel.
Los Alamos co-head coach Rob Hipwood said Trujillo and Elizabeth Brug were among the runners the coaching staff was eyeing Saturday.
“It was very good for them to be in a situation where they were relied on to be a focal point of the varsity,” he said.
Trujillo finished 15th overall, second on the team behind Walker, and Brug was 22nd, third amongst the Hilltopper runners.
Victoria Honnell and Adrienne Larson also both cracked the top 30 Saturday for the Hilltoppers.
Here are the results from Saturday’s Santa Fe Indian School Invitational. Runners are from Los Alamos unless otherwise indicated.
1. Navajo Pine, 63; 2. Belen, 64; 3. Los Alamos, 96; 4. Santa Fe Indian School, 128; 5. St. Michael’s, 152; 6. Pojoaque, 172; 7. Santa Fe Prep, 213.
1. Kate Norsong, St. Michael’s, 18:10; 2. Aleona Reyes, Belen, 18:31; 3. Holly Walker, 18:43; 4. Marlinda Pecos, Santa Fe Indian School, 18:51; 5. Sophia Torres, Pojoaque, 19:05; 6. Emma Hamilton, Santa Fe Prep, 19:16; 7. Chantel Hunt, Navajo Pine, 19:22; 8. Tamra Hardy, Navajo Pine, 19:31; 9. Taylor Hendren, Belen, 19:48; 10. Cheyanne Boggus, Belen, 20:00; 15. Victoria Trujillo, 20:34; 22. Elizabeth Brug, 21:00; 27. Victoria Honnell, 21:14; 29. Adrienne Larson, 21:18; 42. Alicia Herrera, 22:05; 55. Meghan Montoya, 22:28.