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RIO RANCHO — Going into Saturday’s Class AAAA Championship cross country meet, there wasn’t a lot of buzz about the Belen Eagles.But now, the Eagles will have plenty of people talking.Belen was the surprise winner in Saturday’s state title race, knocking off both the favored Albuquerque Academy and third-place Los Alamos.While few expected Belen to be a huge state title threat, the Hilltoppers felt it would be a three-team race for the AAAA crown, and Belen was one of those three.“It really could’ve gone to any of those three,” Hilltopper co-head coach Kathy Hipwood said following the race.The Hilltoppers had hopes going in of a second-straight state title, but ran into some trouble along the way.Going in, Los Alamos knew it would have to stay at or near the front packs to have a chance at a victory, but at about the halfway point, Los Alamos slid into a hole that would prove too much to recover from.While it would be a disappointing team finish, Los Alamos still placed a pair of runners in the top five individually.Holly Walker, who over the course of the season became one of the top runners in the state regardless of classification, finished second overall.Walker ran an outstanding race — her time of 19:06 was the fourth-best girls time posted Saturday — but would be outdone by Santa Teresa’s Jacueline Campos, who ran a blazing 18:42 to take the state individual title.Walker was virtually dead-even with Campos at the 1-mile mark, but Campos would pull away as the race wore on.“I’m pretty happy with it,” Walker said of her finish. “I hadn’t realized how well Jacueline was doing. I didn’t know how well she ran.”Regardless, Walker still finished more than 12 seconds ahead of third-place finisher Anna Olesinski of Goddard.It was a strong end to a stellar prep season for Walker, who will travel with her team to Nike Team National qualifying in Tempe this weekend.Los Alamos’ Margaret Wood, the 2006 Class AAAA individual runner-up, was fifth in Saturday’s race. Her time of 19:44 placed her well ahead of Academy’s top finisher, Amanda Throckmorton.Hipwood said Wood topped some runners she’d struggled against this season en route to her top-five finish.“Holly and Margaret ran great,” Hipwood said. “We couldn’t have asked for more. The other girls ran their hearts out, but they were running from behind a little too much.”Los Alamos was hoping to pack better following Walker and Wood, whose assignment it was to stay with the front-runners as much as possible.And while the remainder of Los Alamos’ team did stick together for much of the race, the next Hilltopper wouldn’t cross for more than a minute after Wood.Megan Reader, who started the season running on the junior varsity team but earned a spot on the big squad halfway through the season, was Los Alamos’ third finisher. She ended up 20th overall.The course, which winds around Rio Rancho High School, appears to be easier than it is to run on, and is both physically- and psychologically-demanding.“It’s a good course,” Walker said. “It’s a lot like Los Alamos; sand, hills…It’s definitely a mentality course.”Hipwood said the team hit some bumps in the road in 2007, but overcame them well and had the right frame of mind heading into state.“I’m disappointed for (the team),” Hipwood said. “They wanted this badly. If things clicked, it was going to happen. If people didn’t feel well, it was going to be hard. But we’re pleased with the effort.”
Here are the results from Saturday’s Class AAAA Championship meet (runners are from Los Alamos unless otherwise indicated):
Team results1. Belen, 47; 2. Albuquerque Academy, 53; 3. Los Alamos, 64; 4. St. Pius X, 127; 5. Kirtland Central, 178; 6. Española Valley, 180; 7. Shiprock, 183; 8. Taos, 222; 9. Piedra Vista, 225; 10. Deming, 246; 11. Artesia, 254; 12. Goddard, 279.Individual results1. Jacueline Campos, Santa Teresa, 18:42; 2. Holly Walker, 19:06; 3. Anna Olesinski, Goddard, 19:18; 4. Aleona Reyes, Belen, 19:30; 5. Margaret Wood, 19:44; 6. Amanda Throckmorton, Academy, 20:00; 7. Gael Sanchez, St. Pius, 20:05; 8. Laycee Smith, Belen, 20:06; 9. Tayler Hendren, Belen, 20:08; 10. Paige Throckmorton, 20:09; 20. Megan Reader, 20:43; 22. Ariana Rowberry, 20:55; 23. Megan Stockton, 21:03; 26. Hannah Little, 21:10; 28. Adrienne Larson, 21:20.