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The Los Alamos Hilltopper boys and girls track and field teams will open the 2014 Class 4A state tournament Friday morning in Albuquerque.
Both Los Alamos teams have nearly full slates of competitors for the 4A meet, which will continue through Saturday. The meet will be at the University of New Mexico Track and Field Complex in Albuquerque.
Los Alamos had a strong end-of-season showing on both the boys and girls side, including winning at home in both the final week of the regular season and the District 2-4A meet.
The stars usually come out for the state meet for competing teams and, heading into the meet, this season appears to be no different.
One of the No. 1 sees in the meet for the Hilltoppers is Chelsea Challacombe. Challacombe, who had an outstanding regular season, will be the one to beat heading into the girls 4A high jump.
This season, Challacombe, Los Alamos’ top athlete, was the only jumper to clear better than 5 feet, 4 inches. She did so at the Marilyn Sepulveda Meet of Champions in April, sailing over 5-8, which was easily the best mark posted in all of New Mexico this year.
At recent state meets, Los Alamos has had one or two athletes turn in monster performances, chief among those was one of the greatest track athletes in the school’s history, Chase Ealey, who graduated in 2012 as a four-time 100 meter champ and two-time shot put champ, among numerous awards she collected.
In order for the Hilltoppers to make a run at a team title, Challacombe will probably have to come up big. She’s also among the favorites to score in the 100 hurdles, long jump and shot put.
Los Alamos will have a long road to toe on the girls side to get back to championship form this season.
The Hilltoppers won four straight state titles between 2009-2012, but that streak, one of the longest in state history, was broken by the Aztec Tigers last season. Paul Anderson was the head coach of the Hilltoppers for all of those team championships, as well as a championship in 2003.
Los Alamos finished second last season with 59 points to Aztec’s 76.
Aztec has a lot of its top performers from 2013 back for this year’s state meet, not the least of which is Sarah Root, who is the favorite in both the 100 hurdles and the triple jump.
One of the new teams into the 4A girls mix this season will be the Santa Fe Demons. The Demons finished as the runners-up to the Hilltoppers at last week’s District 2-4A championship meet, but Santa Fe, which is top-heavy with its athletes, is the favorite going into five different events.
On the boys side, the Hilltoppers finished a surprising fourth last season. The Hilltoppers earned 41 points and were just seven points away from a trophy finish.
Last season, it was the Hilltoppers’ distance crew that provided much of the spark. This year, the distance crew will be asked once again to shoulder a big portion of that load.
Colin Hemez, the reigning Class 4A cross country champion, and tag-team partner Mike Walker, are both entered into the 1,600 and 3,200 meters. Hemez, additionally, will run in the 800 meters.
Los Alamos will also be looking to score points in the relay events – the Hilltoppers were shut out from placing in the relays last year.
Another spot where the Hilltoppers will be looking to earn points is in both the high jump, where they have four competitors entered, led by Skyler McCall, and the pole vault, where three athletes will compete, led by Seth Drop.
Among the other top seeds for the Hilltopper girls are Hayley Schake in the 400 meters and Elizabeth Lockhart in the triple jump. Los Alamos is also just three seconds off the best posted 4A time in the 1600 relay.