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ESPAÑOLA — One race down, one to go.
There was little doubt going into Friday’s District 2-4A race whether the Los Alamos Hilltopper boys cross country team could earn its 13th consecutive district title. About the only question was whether the Hilltoppers could sweep the competition.
The answer was yes.
With Sean Reardon and Nick Hill firmly in the lead, the next three Los Alamos runners had to come from behind with just over a quarter of a mile to go. Santa Fe’s Zachary Grand had a two-second lead over Los Alamos’ Colin Hemez, Zak Kennison and Orion Staples, but the Hilltopper trio was able to overtake Grand to sweep the top five spots.
Los Alamos finished the meet with a perfect score of 15 points, well ahead of runner-up Española Valley.
Reardon just nipped Hill at the line to earn the District 2-4A individual title. The two, who ran the last mile shoulder-to-shoulder, were separated by just .23 seconds to pick up the top honor.
Los Alamos won at Española Valley’s tough course that winds through the hilly backside of the high school campus.
It was on one of the race’s final hills that Grand, who had pulled ahead of the Hilltopper group, seemed to get stuck. The Hilltoppers made up enough ground to get back to within striking distance of Grand, while Grand seemed sapped of a big chunk of his energy as he reached the top.
Kennison, who finished fourth overall, said he was pumped about Friday’s victory.
“That was good,” he said. “It’s great coming in with Colin and Orion. It’s always great when you can come in with your teammates.”
It was the second consecutive sweep of the Hilltoppers in the 2-4A championship race. For the teams involved, it is their only chance to qualify for the state Class 4A title meet.
The 4A meet is scheduled for Saturday in Rio Rancho. Los Alamos will go in as the favorite to claim its second straight state championship.
Also advancing to the state meet from 2-4A will be Española Valley, which finished with 62 total points, and Capital.
Los Alamos entered the maximum nine runners allowed at district — only seven runners are allowed in every other race, including the state race — and all nine finished among the top 12.
Reardon and Hill, who cruised to the finish together, will be among the favorites to vie for an individual state title Saturday.
“We’re all really excited,” Kennison said of the upcoming state meet. “It’s crazy that the season is going to end, but everyone knows what we need to do to stay focused.”
Here are the results from Friday’s District 2-4A championship meet. Runners are from Los Alamos unless otherwise noted:
1. Los Alamos, 15; 2. Española Valley, 62; 3. Capital, 86; 4. Santa Fe, 99; 5. Bernalillo, 122.
1. Sean Reardon, 17:16.62; 2. Nick Hill, 17:16.85; 3. Colin Hemez, 17:29.22; 4. Zak Kennison, 17:29.54; 5. Orion Staples, 17:30; 6. Zachary Grand, Santa Fe, 17:32; 7. Mike Walker, 17:40; 8. Darren Martinez, Española Valley, 17:49; 9. Juan Rodriguez, Capital, 18:08; 10. Aaron Bao, 18:22; 11. Cameron Staples, 18:27; 12. Gus Saeger, 18:28.