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Following a break from competition, both the Hilltopper swimming and wrestling teams will crank up again this weekend.
The ’Topper grappling squad will visit Farmington’s Piedra Vista Invitational starting Friday, while the ’Topper swimming and diving team will travel to the Albuquerque Public Schools Invitational Saturday.
Also this weekend, the Ben Lujan Tournament is continuing, which the Hilltopper basketball team is taking part in. Los Alamos played Wingate this afternoon in the first round — results of that game weren’t available at press time.
Los Alamos will play at 8:15 p.m. Friday if it wins or 1 p.m. Friday if it loses.
NOTE: Because of early deadlines due to the Christmas holiday, many of Saturday’s events won’t appear in the Monitor until later in the week. Please visit our website, www.lamonitor.com, for weekend sports updates. For live sports coverage this weekend, please listen to KRSN AM 1490 and Gene Mortensen, the voice of the Hilltoppers.
Swimming and diving
The Hilltopper boys and girls will be in action for the first time in three weeks when they travel to Saturday’s Albuquerque Public Schools Invitational.
Often around this time of the year, the Hilltoppers exchange brightly-colored viruses and bacteria. Hilltopper head coach Bev Leasure said this year is no exception.
“Everybody’s either sick, been sick or getting over being sick,” Leasure said.
Colds and stomach flu have hit the team hard recently, but Leasure said she’d much rather her swimmers get sick now than in February right before the state championship meet.
Saturday’s meet is being held at West Mesa High School’s 2-year-old swimming facility. Several teams from the Albuquerque area will be in competition Saturday, among them Highland, Manzano and La Cueva.
Leasure said La Cueva will be the team she’ll be keeping an eye out for, particularly on the girls side.
Los Alamos and La Cueva met at the season-opening Barney Relays, with the teams taking one and two in girls competition.
But holding off the Bears is only a secondary goal for the Hilltoppers Saturday.
“We’ll be testing the waters,” Leasure said. “I want to swim our girls in their fastest relays. We’ll do that at this meet and see how we do.”
Right off the bat in the 200-yard medley relay, the team of Alisa Romero, Natalia Moore, Sammi Kao and Kara Leasure will be competing. Leasure, Moore, Maria Musgrave and Vanessa Chavez will take part in the 200 freestyle relay and Kao, Romero Lydia Wermer and Alexandra Hamada will go in the 400 freestyle relay.
Los Alamos is hoping for big things out of Chavez Saturday. Chavez is shooting for her qualifying time in the 50 freestyle as well as helping the 200 freestyle team.
For the boys, Dylan Lake is shooting for a state cut time in the 500 freestyle, and Colton lake and Alex Baker will be aiming for a qualifying time in the 100 backstroke. Paco Venneri will go in the 100 and 200 freestyle events, but he’s one of the ’Toppers who has been hit hard with illness.
The ’Topper wrestling team is another that’s had some time off in between events.
Los Alamos last saw action almost two weeks ago when it took part in the Jaguar Invitational, an event that, for a season-opener, couldn’t have gone much better. Los Alamos, with just seven wrestlers competing in the varsity brackets, was running as high as fourth-place in team point competition.
Los Alamos would go on to finish seventh in the tournament with 78 points, putting four wrestlers into the medal round.
Next up for the Hilltoppers is the Piedra Vista Invitational, which, as of Wednesday afternoon, had 15 confirmed team entries and others may yet show up.
Weigh-ins will start 11 a.m. Friday and wrestling is set to begin at 1:30 p.m. at Piedra Vista High School in Farmington.
The tournament continues through Saturday.
Among the teams scheduled to compete are perennial AAA powerhouse Robertson, all the teams from the Four Corners area, which are generally solid top-to-bottom, and three entries from out-of-state, Del Norte, Colo., Dolores, Colo., and Red Mesa, Ariz.
“This is probably in the top two in terms of difficulty of the tournaments we attend,” Los Alamos head coach Eric Sorensen said. “This and (Las Vegas) Robertson are as tough as it gets. Often there are multiple state placers, from Utah, from Colorado, in the same weight class.”
A couple of familiar faces will be at the tournament as well, namely Española Valley and Taos, who compete with the Hilltoppers in District 2AAAA.
Los Alamos will take nine wrestlers up to the meet, four of which will wrestle on the varsity side — Kory Nelson at 125 pounds, Zakk Wilde at 152, Blaine Lattin at 189 and Eric Carlson at heavyweight.
Sorenson said his team is ready to get back on the mat, particularly after taking final exams this week at the high school.
“I just hope all our kids show some level of improvement over our first outing,” he said. “We want to keep chipping away, keep improving….We worked on a lot of the details we were lacking at Capital and we’re hoping we’re hitting a little better than our opener.”
If the Hilltoppers had one game circled in red marker on their nondistrict calendar this season, it was probably this one.
Los Alamos will host one of the most successful programs in the country Saturday when it takes on the Kirtland Central Broncos.
The Broncos have won 17 state championships in girls basketball, the third-most of any prep team in America. They advanced to the state AAAA title game in 2007 before falling to Aztec.
Kirtland Central has most of its players back from last season’s state finals, and have a solid mix of size and speed. One of its big girls, 5-foot-9 Ali Hathaway, is among the elite all-around athletes in the state.
So far in 2007-08, Kirtland Central sports a record of 5-2, having topped Class AAAAA La Cueva and having held crosstown rival Bloomfield to just 10 points. Its two losses came to Gallup in the finals of the Gallup Invitational and to Monument Valley, Ariz.
Los Alamos will be trying to bounce back from a 61-51 home loss to Highland a week ago.
Despite the loss, Los Alamos had four players reach double figures in scoring, Sarah Ethridge, Bryanna Richins, Tyree Richins and Taylor Ealey, the first time this season Los Alamos achieved that.
NOTE: Should the Los Alamos boys basketball team fail to reach the finals of the Ben Lujan Tournament, KRSN AM 1490 will broadcast Saturday’s girls basketball game.