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RIO RANCHO — It was as dominant a performance as was expected from the Los Alamos Hilltopper boys cross country team.
Los Alamos, the heavy favorite to win the Class 4A state championship this season, didn’t disappoint, placing five runners into the top eight individually Saturday at Rio Rancho High School.
Meanwhile, Los Alamos’ Nick Hill ran away with the 4A individual state title, eclipsing the 16-minute mark and topping runner-up Brandon Levi by nearly 15 seconds.
Los Alamos earned its first back-to-back title in program history Saturday, picking up 22 team points, handily defeating runner-up Albuquerque Academy, which had 69 points. No other team finished under triple digits.
Hill, who had a big finish to the 2011 season and was a big part of Los Alamos’ upset team victory, said he was happy for the win but was hoping to have a shoulder-to-shoulder finish similar to a week ago in the District 2 race.
“I wanted my teammate Sean Reardon to be there, too,” Hill said. “I was hoping for us to come in together, but it was great.”
With the victory, Hill won the state individual title for the Hilltoppers for the third time in five years — Kyle Pittman won in 2008 and 2009.
In the team competition, Los Alamos won its third title in six years. Since 2000, Academy and Los Alamos have finished 1-2 in some order at state every year.
The win by the Hilltoppers came as little surprise to anyone, but particularly coaches Rob and Kathy Hipwood.
“Because they’re so mature and so methodical in their approach...the pressure never came with that in that sense, to their credit and to their maturity,” Rob Hipwood said. “They had a lot of fun this year, but they had a lot of a businesslike approach to do this today.”
Interestingly, Los Alamos, which was perhaps for the first time ever, favored to win the state title, didn’t win the team championship by as big a margin as it did in 2011, when it scored 21 points and Academy finished with 75.
Nevertheless, it was a dominant finish to the New Mexico prep season for the boys, who had dominated the 4A ranks from day one.
Los Alamos’ control of the race was never in doubt. Los Alamos had early on six runners in the top 12 individually while only one other team, the Chargers, had more than one.
Hill led by a few steps over Reardon and Piedra Vista’s Brandon Levi at about the halfway point of the race, but started to pull away near the beginning of the third mile.
Reardon, who edged Hill for the District 2 title a eight days earlier and who, with Hill, was on the short list of favorites to pick up the individual title, fell back slightly at the end of the second mile.
The Rio Rancho course, which has hosted the cross country championship race since 2006, is a tough course that features plenty of hills and sand.
Hill was one of just two runners at the state meet to break the 16-minute mark, the other being Cleveland’s Luis Martinez, one of the most dominant runners in New Mexico history, in the Class 5A race.
“It’s a little hard when there’s no one to challenge you,” Hill said. “You really need to push yourself as much as you can.”
Reardon still finished fourth, matching his finish in 2011. Hilltopper Orion Staples, who ran a strong race throughout, took the third spot. Colin Hemez was sixth.
Here are the results from Saturday’s Class 4A boys championship race:
1. Los Alamos, 22; 2. Albuquerque Academy, 69; 3. Belen, 122; 4. Piedra Vista, 135; 5. Gallup, 162; 6. St. Pius X, 181; 7. Moriarty, 183; 8. Miyamura, 187; 9. Española Valley, 243; 10. Santa Teresa, 336; 11. Capital, 351; 12. Artesia, 360; 13. Farmington, 367; 14. Goddard, 390; 15. Roswell, 431; 16. Centennial, 432; 17. Chaparral, 470; 18. Aztec, 438.
1. Nick Hill, 15:59; 2. Brandon Levi, Piedra Vista, 16:14; 3. Orion Staples, 16:18; 4. Sean Reardon, 16:19; 5. Kevin Wyss, Academy, 16:28; 6. Colin Hemez, 16:30; 7. Blaise Mariner, Academy, 16:35; 8. Zak Kennison, 16:37.55; 9. Mason Thomas, 16:37.80; 10. Austin Anaya, Moriarty, 16:45;
12. Mike Walker, 16:48; 27. Aaron Bao, 17:40.