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RIO RANCHO – This year’s Class 4A state girls cross country championship race was shaping up to be one of the closest ones in recent memory.
But, even though it was tight up top, the Los Alamos Hilltoppers prevailed.
Los Alamos was facing tough competition from both St. Pius X and Albuquerque Academy, but held off both to clinch its fifth consecutive state 4A team championship.
The Hilltoppers finished with 53 team points, 14 points better than Academy in the runner-up spot and 22 points better than St. Pius.
Academy has shown a solid pack over the course of the regular season and St. Pius placed three runners in the top 10 individually, but the Hilltoppers’ pack held both of them off.
“We know there were a lot of really strong teams this year,” said Los Alamos’ top finisher Nica Vasquez. “We just tried to believe in ourselves and not let anything get to our head.”
Los Alamos was still the favorite heading in, but had to be wary of a letdown, or a particularly strong day from St. Pius, which featured state individual champ Kelli Reagan and No. 4 overall finisher Julie Gianinni, who threatened to take over the lead at one point early in the race at Rio Rancho High School.
Meanwhile, Academy had four runners in the top 20 among team competitors, but Los Alamos put all seven of its runners in the top 20, including Vasquez, Maddy Foley and Talia Dreicer cracking the top 10 in team competition – runners who are not part of team don’t factor into the point totals.
“I feel pretty good about my race,” Vasquez said. “It was hard, it’s always hard, but it was good.”
Los Alamos, as it usually does, progressed well throughout the season and finished strong at the state meet on the challenging, mixed-terrain course.
Foley said she was feeling the effects of a long season heading into the race.
“I felt a little shaky with my knee, but it was pretty good during the race,” she said. “I think that the girls felt pretty good, too…this is the hardest course, in my opinions because of all the transitions, from the grass and the sand and concrete. It was pretty hard, but we pulled through pretty well.”
Los Alamos went into this season without a true No. 1 runner, although sophomore Sophia Galvez emerged as a leader throughout the regular season. But as she did two weeks earlier at the Hilltoppers’ home invitational, struggled at the finish line.
Galvez finished 14th among runners in team competition, followed by Amanda Mercer, last week’s winner of the district championship race, in 16th.
1. Los Alamos, 53; 2. Albuquerque Academy, 67; 3. St. Pius X, 75; 4. Piedra Vista, 158; 5. Gallup, 161; 6. Santa Fe, 179; 7. Valencia, 183; 8. Santa Teresa, 231; 9. Española Valley, 293; 10. Los Lunas, 296; 11. Roswell, 297; 12. Del Norte, 319; 13. Chaparral, 351; 14. Kirtland Central, 376; 15. Centennial, 394; 16. Goddard, 474; 17. Artesia, 525.
1. Kelli Reagan, St. Pius, 18:23; 2. Arena Lewis, Belen, 18:29; 3. Regina Marquez, Santa Teresa, 18:52; 4. Julie Gianinni, St. Pius, 19:03; (tie) Cameron Kristensen, Academy, 19:03; 6. Nica Vasquez, 19:07; 7. Carisma Lovato, Valencia, 19:09; 8. Camila Orozco, Valencia, 19:14; 9. Maddy Foley, 19:20; 10. Hannah Baca, St. Pius, 19:21.
11. Talia Drecier, 19:23; 15. Sophia Galvez, 19:53; 17. Amanda Mercer, 19:57; 20. Mikayla Pulliam, 20:17; 21. Katy Stockton, 20:17.