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Although the weather is still balmy, the fall is fast approaching and local prep athletes are well aware of it.
The start of the fall 2013 season at Los Alamos High School is ramping up with the first contests of the scholastic year now less than a calendar month away.
Preparations for the 2013 fall season for most athletics at Los Alamos began right at the start of summer vacation, or in some cases, before school got out in May.
However, the first official day of practice for high school football is Aug. 5, as set by the New Mexico Activities Association, the governing body of most interscholastic athletics. The other prep sports officially begin Aug. 12.
As is the case most years, the Hilltopper girls soccer team will be the first to open its season. Los Alamos will take on longtime foe Farmington Aug. 24 at Sullivan Field.
Hilltopper head coach Jiri Kubicek, despite being one of the longest tenured head coaches in the history of the school, said it’s sometimes tough to predict exactly what spot the team will be starting from.
“Hopefully, we don’t come in totally out of shape,” he said. “We have our first game two weeks after we start practicing. Hopefully nobody gets hurt when we get into practice. We’ll be OK.”
Of the six varsity fall programs at the high school, three will have their first competition by the end of August and the other three right at the beginning of September.
The most successful program at LAHS at the state level has been the girls cross country team. With 17 state team titles, the best haul in the history of New Mexico, along with four straight team titles, the Hilltoppers are far and away the dominant force in the state.
The girls and the boys, who have strung together two consecutive team titles and earned crushing victories in last November’s Class 4A championship race, will compete Sept. 7 at the season-opening University of New Mexico Invitational, a race, with its enormous size and scope of talent, has the feel of a state championship race.
Los Alamos’ football team, coming off a 6-4 season and being squeezed out of an invitation to the Class 4A playoffs, will be on the road for its Aug. 27 opener. The boys soccer team will open at Bosque, one of the toughest small schools in the state, Aug. 27.
One of Los Alamos’ marquee events of the year happens almost right off the bat: the Louie Cernicek Invitational boys soccer tournament.
The Cernicek tournament, which is usually among the toughest tournaments in northern New Mexico year-in and year-out, will be Aug. 30 and Sept. 1.
Currently, solid programs like Belen, Farmington, Piedra Vista, Clovis and Roswell — teams that are regulars at the Cernicek Invite — are scheduled to attend.
Football will open down the hill at Pojoaque Valley. For Pojoaque Valley, it will be the Elks’ first season opener under the lights at Jacona Field — the lights were installed in 2012 — and will be the first night game Los Alamos has ever played at the venue.
This year’s Hilltopper football schedule is a mirror image of 2012. It will play all the same teams as last year, but at the other team’s home field.
Los Alamos will host Farmington for its home opener, set for Sept. 6, and has home games scheduled against St. Pius X, Bernalillo and Española Valley.
The 2013 Homecoming game is scheduled for Oct. 4 against Albuquerque Academy.
The girls soccer team typically has one of the toughest schedules, if not the toughest, of any prep team in the state.
In addition to opening against Farmington, which has been a legitimate 4A contender for many years but limped to a 12-12 record last season, the Hilltoppers will try to defend their crown at the Albuquerque Academy Invitational in mid-September, as well as taking on Academy’s Chargers and their arch-enemy St. Pius Sept. 3.
“That’s good,” said Kubicek, never one to shy away from a challenging regular season schedule. “Farmington is about the same level we are. It’s a good challenge for us to star the season. We’ve got Farmington, Bosque, St. Pius...four tough games in a couple of weeks. It’s going to give us an idea of where we are.”
The Hilltopper volleyball team is jumping head-first into the season, as well.
In their opener, the Hilltoppers will face their arch-nemesis St. Pius. St. Pius’ Sartans have sent the Hilltoppers packing in each of the last five seasons in the 4A tournament, the last three happening in the state semifinals.
The Hilltoppers and Sartans face off Sept. 3 in Albuquerque.
Los Alamos has a new head coach this season, Robin Reynolds, and several slots to fill after some big senior departures, not the least of which was All-State setter Savanah Romero.
The volleyball team has been working hard during the summer and just got back from camps at Alamosa, Colo., and Rio Rancho. Reynolds said the team will attend one more camp, an important team camp also at Rio Rancho, Aug. 9-10, just prior to the start of official team workouts.
“It’s been progressive for us,” said Reynolds, who took over for Garry Maskaly, who stepped down in February. “We had our technique camp and a lot of girls came to that. We built on that with tactics camp. We’re a new group...we’ve got some holes to fill, but we’re looking at some girls to fill them.”
2013 Fall Season Openers
Aug. 24 vs. Farmington
Aug. 27 at Bosque
Aug. 30 at Pojoaque Valley
Sept. 3 at St. Pius X
Sept. 7 at UNM Invitational