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ALBUQUERQUE – There was a huge target on the collective back of the Los Alamos Hilltopper girls track and field team this season.
It would be the Aztec Tigers that would find the mark.
The impressive four-year reign of the Hilltoppers at the Class 4A state meet came to an end Saturday at the University of New Mexico Track and Field Complex. The Tigers, the first team in many years to rival the Hilltoppers’ roster depth, claimed the 4A state title with a total of 76 points.
The Hilltoppers managed a total of 59 points, not enough to hang on to their title.
Going into the meet, Los Alamos had little margin of error to grab a fifth consecutive title, which would have put the team in even more elite company than it’s already associated with, but a good Friday for Aztec and a tough Friday for the Hilltoppers put them in a hole they’d never get out of.
But even after a rough day one of the meet, the Hilltoppers worked themselves back into title contention on Championship Saturday.
Los Alamos took first in the first final of the day, the 400-meter relay and took a solid second-place finish in the 800 relay, with anchor leg Amy Neal avoiding a big pile up on the final exchange that cost one of the team’s main challengers, Piedra Vista, its anchor leg runner.
Piedra Vista, which had a big first day of the meet as well, lost out on points in that event and the 100 meters when heavy favorite Zhianna Flores false started. There were an inordinate number of false starts throughout the two days.
Los Alamos also took second in the 800 relay and the 1600 medley relay. In the final leg of the medley, Kathryn Stockton held off a late charge from Aztec’s anchor runner, who momentarily overtook Stockton with about 120 meters left, for the runner-up finish.
“It was painful,” Stockton said. “I saw her trying to pass me from (Aztec), but I knew I couldn’t let her beat me.”
Friday was a disappointing day for Los Alamos senior Laura Wendelberger, who was one of the big weapons in Los Alamos’ arsenal.
Wendelberger was seeking her second state title in the high jump and first since her freshman year, but struggled when she got to 5-2.
Despite being the No. 1 seed in the event and going in with the best leap in 4A in 2013, she clipped the bar on her first jump and couldn’t find the height in either of her next two attempts.
She would ultimately finish fifth.
Hilltopper sophomore Chelsea Chalacombe, meanwhile, made 5-2 on her second attempt to finish third. Kayli Farmer of Aztec, cleared 5-2 on her opening attempt to win in a tiebreaker over Melissa Amaya of Chaparral.
In Friday’s long jump competition, Wendelberger, also the highest seed heading into the competition, couldn’t match her performances from the regular season. She ended up eighth overall with a jump of 16-7 1/2, while Aztec’s Sierra Martinez and Sarah Root took 1-2 in the event.
Wendelberger was able to rebound on Saturday, however, helping the 400 relay team to its win and taking fifth in the 100 hurdles.