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Hilltoppers aim to remain state contenders

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By Phil Scherer

Though it may look like a year of rebuilding for the track and field teams at Los Alamos High School, but counting the Hilltoppers out at the state level would be a mistake.

Both teams at LAHS lost a lot of talented seniors last year, forcing new, younger athletes to step up and fill the void.

Those will be big shoes to fill, as last year’s senior class led both teams to top-four finishes at the state meet, including a runner-up finish for the girls’ team.

Despite having to retool, optimism remains high that the momentum from last year will continue into the new season.

“I just think we have a great team dynamic,” girls’ head coach Aaron Padilla said. “We had a standout freshman class last year that are sophomores now, so I feel like the talent and work ethic is there.”

With 45 girls on the team, Padilla’s numbers are lower than last year, but he doesn’t necessarily see it as a negative.

“We have a lot of quality girls on this team, and not just good athletes but good students and good people,” Padilla said.

In terms of what he expects his team to be strong in, Padilla said relays would likely continue to be strong, as they were last year.

“I feel like we can place in all four relays, which is huge at state,” Padilla said.

Field events should also be a strength for the team, specifically the high jump, which Padilla believes will be one of the best events for the team.

“The distribution will be different, but hopefully the outcome will be the same and we will be competing for a state title,” Padilla said.

At the first meet of the season last week in Albuquerque, the Hilltoppers performed well, winning the Chile Quad meet against Albuquerque Academy, St. Pius and Sandia Prep. LAHS scored 98 team points, while runner-up Academy tallied 83 points.

Sophomore Becca Green was the team standout, blowing away the competition in the discus throw and the shot put to earn 12 points for the Hilltoppers.

In the shot put, her attempt went four feet further than the runner-up, and in the discus, she won by more than 14 feet.

Freshman Lidia Appell was also a standout, winning the 3,200-meter run by more than four seconds with a time of 11:59.95.

LAHS also dominated in the 200-meter dash, earning the top four spots. Junior Leah Wolfsberg won, followed by Susana Gallegos, Shelly Doyle and Michaela Gonzales.

On the boys’ side, getting back to that state championship level will be more of an uphill climb.

Much like the girls, the team lost a large number of seniors, and is searching for combinations that will work as the season gets going.

At the Chile Quad, the boys finished behind Academy, which scored 157 points. LAHS finished with 90 points.

The Hilltoppers did well in the relay events, winning the 4x100-meter relay and the 4x200-meter relay. The individual standout for the Hilltoppers was Gabe Holesinger, who won the pole vault.

Ben Schauer, a senior captain for the Hilltoppers, said he believes it is a strong team that will continue to improve as the year goes along.

“Last year we had a lot of depth, like we had a lot of really good of this and really good of that, and we don’t have that this year,” Schauer said. “But we still have people who are really good at what they do.”

Though he isn’t sure the team will be able to replicate last year’s fourth-place finish at state, he has hope that the team will find success, specifically in some of the individual events.

“I think our high jump will be better, some of our throwing events will be better,” Schauer said. “For the most part, we won’t be better at things than we were last year.”

He added that the team will still be strong in all of the relays and many of the field events, and that improvement throughout the year will help the team find success.

The Hilltoppers have two more meets early in the year to find combinations that lead to success before hosting the Los Alamos Invitational on March 23.

LAHS will also be the host of the District 2-5A championship meet in early May.