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LA, Academy boys finish even at regional qualifier

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By Mike Cote

Talk about evenly matched.The Nike Team Nationals Southwest Regional race had a distinct red or green flavor, with the Los Alamos Hilltopper and Albuquerque Academy Charger boys finishing in a dead-heat Saturday at Tempe, Ariz.The two teams tied for the title at the regional run-off, a qualifier for the elite NTN race, which will be held Dec. 1 in Portland, Ore. Because of their finish, both teams will get an all-expenses paid trip to run in the event.Academy, however, won the tiebreaker, with its sixth-place finisher Damon Campbell coming in 55th overall, topping Los Alamos’ sixth-place runner Daniel Hemphill, who was 79th.Both teams easily outdistanced third place Galena, which had 111 team points.“They’re very excited,” Los Alamos Hilltopper co-head coach Kathy Hipwood said following the race. “This year, they could be one of the top teams, or they have a chance to at least place (at nationals).”Allen Pittman was third among team participants in the race, finishing in 15 minutes, 40 seconds, while Kyle Pittman was 10th overall, seven seconds behind.Tom Witherell, who finished 51st in the race, took a bad spill around the one-mile mark trying to avoid another runner who had fallen. But Witherell recovered, and ended up being the fifth finisher for Los AlamosAmong those participating with teams, Ben Johnson of Academy was first overall (14:56), followed by Pat Zacharias in 11th (15:51).Los Alamos’ girls also took part in the Southwest Regional, finishing 14th among the 19 clubs at the event. Sophomore Holly Walker, who was second a week ago in the Class AAAA cross country state championships, was 34th overall in the event, finishing with a time of 19:38, less than a second ahead of teammate Margaret Wood, who was 35th.