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ALBUQUERQUE – For a long time, it’s been hard to top the Los Alamos Hilltoppers in distance events. That didn’t change last weekend, either.
And while the Hilltoppers have had a strong distance corps season after season, the 2013-14 season was all about Colin Hemez.
Hemez, who was among the elite runners in the state coming into his senior year, didn’t disappoint. And he finished his career at Los Alamos High School with a bang.
Going up against one of his oldest, toughest rivals in the 1,600 meters and 3,200 meters, Hemez got the best of Kevin Wyss of Albuquerque Academy to take both titles at the May 16-17 Class 4A state championship meet. Hemez nipped Wyss for the 3,200 championship May 16 – a big part of the reason the Hilltoppers actually held the lead in team points for much of the meet – then held off a challenge from Wyss when he tried to turn the tables in the May 17 1,600 meters.
“When I look back on my track and cross country career, that’s going to be what I remember, those head-to-head battles,” Hemez said. “Working against each other, playing off each other, training for each other. That’s what we remember.”
Along with the two races that weekend, Hemez also earned the state individual cross country title this season and led Los Alamos to its third consecutive 4A team title.
Hemez likely could’ve elected to go to any number of collegiate programs who would’ve found a use for his running acumen. Instead, though, he will attend Yale in the fall.
Ivy League schools don’t give athletic scholarships and, often, don’t do any athletic recruiting.
Hemez said if he elects at some point to try out for the running programs he may yet do so, but that isn’t a priority for him right now.
“The first year, I may try to run on my own, run with a club team, try triathloning or something,” he said. “If I feel like I want that structure of varsity sports, I can always walk on. It’s awesome to have that option, but I’m really excited to have new experiences, try new things and end my structured running career in such a great way.”
In the 3,200 meters, Hemez and Wyss were running close together at the front of the race, but with about 120 meters to go, Hemez made his move and outraced Wyss to the finish line.
The difference in their times was less than a second.
In the 1,600 meters, again the two were at the front of a talented pack of athletes. Then, with just over 100 meters to go, Wyss, about a stride behind Hemez, made his move.
Hemez said he was expecting Wyss to try to outkick him coming down the final stretch, and in fact was a little surprised Wyss didn’t try it earlier.
It looked with about 60 meters to go Wyss was going to get the better of Hemez, but Hemez’s kick was just enough to hold off the late surge.
And again, the difference between the two finishes was less than a second.
Los Alamos finished in third place in the 4A team competition and Hemez was a big chunk of that. In fact, partially because of Hemez’s win in the 3,200, the Hilltoppers led the team standings for a big portion of the event.
Ultimately, the Hilltoppers settled for third, although that finish was better than some expected and was their best finish at state since 2011.
While the Hilltoppers have had dominant performances at the state meet before – Gareth Gilna’s sweep of the three distance events in 2008 will continue to be the gold standard, likely for years to come – it was a big finish for one of the Hilltoppers’ top athletes, who also made his mark in the annals of Los Alamos history.
“I’m never going to forget it for the rest of my life,” Hemez said. “It’s incredible. You know, the running programs here, track and cross country, they’re incredible. They do so much more than make you fast. We learn so much more about ourselves.”