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Golf is a leisurely activity that many people enjoy. The previous 12 months at Los Alamos Golf Course was anything but.
Some happy moments and some sad moments, along with some uncertainty about the long-range outlook of the course was the top local sports story of 2012.
LAGC, the second-oldest public course in the state, was showing its age for some time before the decision was made to condemn the old clubhouse building. The management of the course was forced to move into the cramped quarters of the old clubhouse, which is currently also housing the pro shop and what remains of the abbreviated snack bar.
Despite the challenges, about halfway through the season LAGC had reported its total rounds played actually had gone up significantly over 2011, when a fully-functioning clubhouse existed.
The bump was credited by course manager Steve Wickliffe to efforts staff had made to make the game of golf more accessible to those who had never played or who had stopped playing and needed encouragement to return.
There was one big, notable casualty to the progress that had been made at LAGC, however: the cancellation of the Atomic City Invitational.
The ACI, the longest-running match-play tournament in New Mexico, which is traditionally held around the Independence Day holiday, was nixed due to very low pre-registration. The only other year besides 2012 the tournament wasn’t played was in 2000 because of the Cerro Grande Fire — it was postponed to Labor Day 2011 because of the Las Conchas Fire.
The loss of the tournament was a bummer for the golf community, enough so that some longtime ACI participants scrambled to put together their own tournament around July 4.
Wickliffe is hopeful that LAGC can start to attract out-of-towners in the future, but admitted it will be tough as the course must compete with Towa Golf Course in Pojoaque and Black Mesa Golf Course in Española.
On June 21, the summer solstice, longtime course pro Donnie Torres squeezed in 17 rounds — a total of 306 holes — on the “Longest Day of Golf.” Torres, who averaged right around even par for the day and had a string of five rounds under par, played his “Longest Day” to benefit the Los Alamos Rotary and the PGA Junior Golf Association, raising approximately $4,000.
In late July, a water leak was discovered near the course which affected watering on the holes near Diamond Drive and several large tankers had to be brought in to properly water those areas. The leak was found just days before the start of the Los Alamos City Championship.
Kurt Anast came out on top of July’s City Championship, nipping defending champion Curt Norman by one stroke.
Anast also was half of the winning team in the Memorial Day Best Ball Tournament, the first major event of the year at LAGC. Tami Martinson grabbed her fourth consecutive City championship win, taking a comfortable 6-shot victory in the two-day event.
It was a melancholy day for LAGC in June, when the golf community put up a memorial plaque at the No. 3 tee box for Ed Griggs, longtime golfer and volunteer at the local YMCA.
The golf course, however, did enjoy an extended playing year this year. It only officially closed for the season Dec. 17.
It was yet another big performance by one of the most noteworthy Los Alamos Hilltopper athletes of all time.
Chase Ealey repeated her trifecta of state Class 4A individual titles in the shot put, javelin and 100-meter dash in May’s championship meet. Ealey broke the record in the 100 by .01 seconds and eclipsed her own state record shot put throw en route to a 26.5-point performance.
Before the spring track season, Ealey had signed a National Letter of Intent with Oklahoma State University, then strained a hamstring muscle in the preseason on top of battling a nagging foot injury.
It would’ve been easy for Ealey to rest on her laurels, but she finished her prep career with one of the most outstanding individual performances ever seen in state meet history.
The Hilltopper girls track and field team would go on to win its fourth consecutive state title, just the fourth time in New Mexico prep history a team has won four or more straight championships.
Also winning state titles this season were Los Alamos’ cross country teams. In November, the Hilltopper girls won their fourth consecutive title, while the Hilltopper boys grabbed their second consecutive title, the first time the program has strung together back-to-back titles. Nick Hill won the boys state individual cross country title, finishing the 3.12-mile course in under 16 minutes.
Movers and shakers
On the state scene, several changes took place at the New Mexico Activities Association.
In August, longtime NMAA executive director Gary Tripp announced he was stepping down from his position to take a principal’s job at Zia Public Day School.
It was the second time Tripp, who took over as the NMAA head in 2004, had planned to leave the job. He made a similar announcement in 2011 but changed his mind just prior to the start of the 2011-12 academic year.
One of Tripp’s assistants, Robert Zayas, whom many thought was an obvious choice for the position, actually left the NMAA a month earlier to become the head of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association, making him one of the youngest top executives for a prep athletics association in the nation.
Another assistant to Tripp, Sally Marquez, was given the top NMAA job in late September.
Here are some other sports stories that made headlines in 2012:
• In January, Los Alamos Hilltopper cross country coaches Rob and Kathy Hipwood were inducted into the New Mexico Track and Cross Country Coaches Association Hall of Fame. Also that month, local fencer Patrick Webb earned a national ‘D’ ranking and a local lacrosse team was announcing it was forming to play in a Santa Fe-based league.
• In February, the New Mexico Renegades semi-pro hockey team played at the Los Alamos County Ice Rink in an exhibition contest that attracted a large crowd of hockey enthusiasts.
• In March, the Atomic City Roadrunners co-sponsored the annual Run for Her Life race to benefit breast cancer research. Alexander Romero and Kelly Sanchez won the 5K race and Erica Baron and Ted Romero won the 10K race. Micah True, a well-known distance runner who held talks in Los Alamos, was found dead in the Gila Wilderness.
• In April, several former Los Alamos High School athletes were honored for academic success at the University of New Mexico. Among those athletes were Kyle Pittman, Amelia Neal and Alex Kirk. Also in April, Mike Rahmer of Tijeras and Caroline Collona of Taos won this year’s Atomic Man Duathlon Fat Man division.
• In May, seniors Thomas Russell and Monika Teter were named this year’s recipients of the Clendenen Award, the highest honor LAHS gives to graduating student-athletes. Teter was also named District 2-4A Player of the Year in softball. Also that month, Chris Buntain and Nikol Strother were the winners of the Jerry Bower Memorial 5K run.
• In June, Los Alamos once again played host to the Tour de Los Alamos. The bike race, believed to be the oldest in the southwest, celebrated its 40th anniversary. Mark Aasmundstad of Flagstaff, Ariz., won the men’s pro title and Dana Shinn of Durango, Colo., was the winner in the top women’s category by just five seconds. Also in June, another big bike race, the downhill Pajarito Punishment, was won by Chris Boice and Michelle Pederson.
• In July, the White Rock-Los Alamos All-Star junior softball team won the District 1 championship and qualified to compete in the Little League regional championship tournament. Also in July, a pair of local rodeo competitors, steer wrestler Jake Trujillo and light rifle shooter, took part in the National High School Finals Rodeo competition.
• In August, local multi-sport athletes Chip Cooper and Liz Miller picked up wins in the Los Alamos Triathlon, which included 146 individual competitors and 23 relay teams. Also, the WR-LA All-Stars were bounced from the regional softball championship in straight games.
• In September, Los Alamos’ football team picked up an impressive shutout over Kirtland Central, 34-0. Local runner Nathaniel Gustafson won the 10K race at this year’s Pajarito Trail Fest. Albuquerque’s Elizabeth Turner was the women’s 10K winner, while Michael Ehrmentraut of Santa Fe and Sarah Demay of Jemez Springs were the 15-mile run winners.
• In October, it was announced Los Alamos High School finished second behind Albuquerque Academy in the New Mexico Activities Association Director’s Cup competition, which measures success in statewide interscholastic athletics and activities. Alyssa Parker of Piñon Elementary School and Thomas Chadwick of Aspen Elementary School were the winners of this year’s Elementary School Mile Run.
• In November, the Los Alamos Aquatomics relay team of Andy Corliss, Wayne Williams, Matias Rougier and Ming-Yuan Lo set a new state record for the 100-yard freestyle relay (boys 8 and under). The Hilltopper football team held a fundraiser at its season finale to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project.
• In December, three Los Alamos School of Gymnastics athletes, Brianna Fryer, Addison Richie and Anna Clark won state all-around championships for the Xcel Program. Freyer won all four disciplines on her way to a win.