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Girls cross country: Toppers upend Chargers to win 4A championship

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By The Staff

RIO RANCHO — The cross country course at Rio Rancho High School has been good to the Los Alamos Hilltopper girls cross country team in 2009.

Saturday on that very same course, the Hilltopper girls thumped their arch-rivals, the Albuquerque Academy Chargers, to grab the Class AAAA state championship.

Los Alamos placed three runners in the top 10 to claim a huge victory over Albuquerque Academy. Los Alamos finished with just 47 points on the meet while runner-up Academy finished with 80 points. 2007 state champion Belen was a distant third.

It was a hefty victory for a team in the state title race that matured quickly in the latter half of the 2009 season.

“What we envisioned for them as ideal is how they ran,” Los Alamos head coach Kathy Hipwood said.

The Hilltoppers Saturday were paced by senior Holly Walker, who saved perhaps the best race of her career for last. Walker finished at the AAAA individual runner-up, running a solid 18 minutes, 18 seconds.

She was topped only by Academy’s Julia Foster. Foster, who had a stellar 2009 for the Chargers, turned in the only sub-18 minute time of the day in any of the four girls races, finishing in 17:48 to take the individual title.

During the 2009 season, Los Alamos had beaten Academy only one time in five head-to-head meetings.

That victory by Los Alamos, however, occurred at the same venue, Rio Rancho High School.

Behind Walker was freshman Jennifer Mooday, who placed seventh in Saturday’s race. Mooday’s and eighth-grader Emily Pittman, who was 10th among all team finishers, helped to neutralize the finishes of Amanda and Paige Throckmorton of Academy.

The Hilltoppers’ fourth and fifth runners, Megan Reader and Victoria Honnell, finished well ahead of the Chargers final two runners.

Mooday, Pittman, Teresa Sandoval and Eliana Riciputi, who all ran for the Hilltoppers Saturday, are all freshmen or eighth-graders.

“We knew it would take time at the beginning, but there was a good mixture there,” Hipwood said. “We’re thrilled. We’re not shocked or anything. They ran beautifully.”

Saturday’s victory gave the Hilltoppers their first state title since 2006. Interestingly, Foster, who was a freshman at the time, also won the individual state title that year.

It was also Los Alamos’ seventh state team title since it joined AAAA in 2000.

Full results from Saturday’s race will appear in Tuesday’s Monitor.