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Some people will go long and far to fulfill a goal they’ve set for themselves.
But few will go further than Garth Reader.
Reader, a local ultra-runner, took part in the Marathon Des Sables in Morocco earlier this year, which is something he’s wanted to do for a long time.
For his efforts in the Sahara Desert, Reader finished near the top 10 percent of better than 1,000 participants at the event, which took place in April.
“I exceeded all expectations going in,” Reader said after finishing the five-stage race in a total of 30 hours, 55 minutes. “I thought I ran a pretty smart race.”
His trek through some of the harshest conditions in the world was the top local sports story of 2013.
At the Marathon Des Sables, competitors must conquer searing heat, wild temperature swings, tough running terrain and, oh, plenty of sand.
Nevertheless, Reader said he wouldn’t trade the experience for anything and might even consider doing it again.
He said the race is actually very well organized and there is plenty of staff on the course to make sure competitors are healthy and don’t veer away from their destinations.
As usual, running and multi-sport athletes were among the big headline-grabbers in 2013.
Among other top performances this year, the Los Alamos Hilltopper boys and girls cross country team added to their treasure troves of state championships. Los Alamos’ boys pulled off a minor upset over the Albuquerque Academy Chargers to clinch their third consecutive state title in November, while the Hilltopper girls rolled right along to earn their fifth straight title.
Los Alamos’ Colin Hemez, the boys team’s top returner from the previous season, was the individual state champion in Class 4A.
In August, local athletes Liz Miller and Chip Cooper were the top finishers in the Los Alamos Triathlon.
It was a repeat performance for both the women’s and men’s elite champions, with Cooper holding off another top local racer, Clay Moseley, for the men’s title with his time of 1 hour, 1 minute, 11 seconds, while Miller nipped Santa Fe’s Mary Uhl for the women’s title, with Miller finishing in 1:11:30.
Moving On Up
Also this year, the New Mexico Activities Association elected to expand the current 5-classification system to 6 classifications starting next year.
The NMAA, which governs most interscholastic sports around the state, voted to move to the 6-tier system, although the impact of the move, the biggest realignment since 2000, will have limited effect on Los Alamos or most of the current Class 4A teams around New Mexico.
The final alignment was released in late November. Los Alamos will be in a district with Bernalillo, Capital, Española Valley and Del Norte in District 2-5A.
Santa Fe, the other member of the current District 2-4A, will move up to Class 6A next year, a move Santa Fe Public School officials protested. However, Santa Fe’s formal appeal was denied earlier this month by the NMAA and the Demons will now have to play in a district with big-school heavyweights Rio Rancho, Cleveland, Cibola and Volcano Vista.
For most other schools currently in 4A and moving up to 5A, little will change other than their designations.
Changing of the Guards
As is often the case, there were some coaching moves around Los Alamos High School, but none less expected than in the girls basketball program.
Just before the start of the District 2-4A season in January, head coach Tarah Logan resigned her post abruptly, citing family reasons.
Ann Stewart, a former LAHS athlete, took over the position and guided Los Alamos to a third-place finish in the 2-4A regular season race and a berth into the postseason. Los Alamos advanced to the quarterfinal round of the state tournament in March.
Also stepping down during 2013 were swimming coach Rusty Bernstein, who had been with that program since 2009, and boys track coach Matt Felton, who had guided the Hilltoppers for two years.
Stu Corliss was named to replace Bernstein in swimming in August, while longtime former coach Larry Baca, who led Los Alamos to 18 straight district championships before stepping down after 26 years following his retirement from his LAHS teaching position.
The Hilltopper wrestling program, which had struggled through several less-than-notable seasons in a row, did one of the biggest 180-degree turnarounds in recent school history in 2013, spearheaded by a big effort from one of its top athletes.
Brian Geyer became the first Hilltopper in nearly 20 years to capture an individual state title, knocking off Mark Hussey of Los Lunas in a nail-biting championship match in February to win the 182-pound title.
Geyer actually lost to Hussey earlier in the 2012-13 season, but nipped him in sudden death to clinch the title.
For Los Alamos as a team, it finished in fifth place in the 4A final standings, its best finish since joining 4A in 2000.
In May, the Los Alamos Hilltopper girls tennis eam earned its eighth title in program history in May, holding on for a 5-4 victory over Farmington in the championship match.
Los Alamos went up 4-2 after the six singles matches, but lost the Nos. 1 and 3 doubles matches.
However, the team of Susana Lucido/Colleen Fitzsimmons held off a late charge by Farmington’s No. 2 doubles team of Allie Linville/Sydney Schumacher to clinch the team championship.
Earlier at the state 4A tournament, the Hilltoppers’ top doubles squad of Madline Margevicius/Gillian Hsieh-Ratliff defeated Farmington’s Molly Merrion/Danielle Nguyen, the No. 1 overall seed to earn the state title as well.
Margevicius/Hsieh-Ratliff won the opening set of the final 6-2 against Farmington’s formidable duo, which then battled back to tie up the match and force a third set.
In the third set, Margevicius/Hsieh-Ratliff got its net game going in full gear and Merrion/Nguyen had no answer for it.
It was the first state title for the duo, which both graduated in the spring.