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Running: Walker inks to run with CSM

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By Mike Cote

It was a busy day for the athletic department at both Los Alamos High School and the Colorado School of Mines Wednesday.

A pair of Hilltopper seniors, standout runner Holly Walker and soccer player Kelsey Neal, both signed to attend CSM during a ceremony Wednesday afternoon at LAHS.

Walker, who has been a big part of the recent successes of the Hilltopper cross country and track and field programs, will become an Oredigger in both sports starting in the fall.

"It's a nice, small Division-II school focused on academics," Walker said after signing her National Letter of Intent for CSM.

While CSM, located in Golden, Colo., is a small school, it is part of the very competitive Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference which boasts national small-school powerhouses like Adams State College — the alma mater of Walker's prep coaches Rob and Kathy Hipwood — and Western University.

Walker will join a women's cross country team at CSM that's very young. In 2009, the Orediggers had 11 true or redshirt freshmen on its roster. The Orediggers were fourth at the RMAC championships and finished eighth in the D-II central regional last season.

For Walker, her big focus in college is going to be academics, one of the reasons she chose CSM. She said CSM's veteran head coach Art Siemers is very academics-oriented, one of the things she liked about the school's program.

Colorado has been a popular choice for many Hilltopper runners, including 2009 Adams State graduate Heather Wood and current ASC athlete Ryan McNiff, as well as Colorado State standout Kristen Hemphill.

As for the school, it is one of the few Walker was interested in that actually offers what she would like to major in: geological engineering.

Walker visited the school during the cross country season and felt right at home with the runners in the women's program.

"Everyone's really sweet," she said. "Their lives are running and school. I like that. They're really good people."

Walker has been one of the top distance runners at the school throughout her entire prep career.

This fall, Walker finished second at the Class AAAA state championship meet, leading the Hilltoppers to their seventh team title of the decade and the 14th in program history, tying them with Gallup as the most successful girls team in the state.

Walker is currently in training for the upcoming prep track and field team. In spring 2009, Los Alamos captured the Class AAAA state title in impressive fashion, with Walker taking fifth place in the 3,200 meters.

More than her individual finish, however, Walker said the 2009 team was special because, to an athlete, personal glory was set aside for the good of the team. She's hoping the same thing will happen this season.

"I want our team to come back together like that," she said. "We felt like a team. I felt like that really helped. We weren't focused on individual events. We want to be focused on how other people are doing."