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The more things change, the more they stay the same around the Los Alamos Hilltopper girls cross country team.
Even with a lot of underclassmen on its projected starting lineup this year, the Hilltoppers are returning a lot of varsity experience in 2013, while some of the younger girls who are stepping up to fill spots that were lost to graduation are showing promise already.
Los Alamos will attempt to keep its four-year streak of state titles alive when it hits the course for Saturday’s University of New Mexico Invitational. UNM’s meet, which is run at the North Golf Course and includes both prep and collegiate races, may be the largest race in the state in terms of competing teams going together in one race.
Returning sophomore Maddy Foley said thinks she and the rest of the Hilltoppers are ready.
“I’m a little nervous but I think we’ve been training pretty well,” Foley said. “Our team seems pretty good. With Jen (Mooday) gone and Teresa (Sandoval) gone, it’s a little nerve-wracking, but I think we can pull through, and hopefully win UNM. I don’t know, but I think we’ll be fine.”
Sandoval and Mooday were key cogs in the Hilltoppers’ string of success at state — both of them were top 10 finishers at the 2012 meet, which Los Alamos won handily — but Los Alamos is hardly panicking due to their absence.
Returning from the championship squad are top finishers are Foley, Mikayla Pulliam and Amanda Mercer, among others, although Pulliam is battling illness this week, however, and may not run at UNM.
Los Alamos has won more girls titles, 17, than any other program in state history, and there’s little reason to believe they won’t add to that total in the near future.
The team had a good summer’s worth of training and should be physically ready for UNM.
“I think we’ve been really pleased with the effort people have been putting in,” Los Alamos head coach Kathy Hipwood said. “Some of the people that weren’t necessarily in the mix last year wanting to be in the mix this year….hopefully they get more and more psyched about it.”
One of the big additions to the team is Sophia Galvez. Galvez ran junior varsity last year as a freshman, but started to come into her own during the 2013 track season, qualifying for both the 1,600 and 3,200 meter races.
In the team’s preseason scrimmage at La Cueva Aug. 24, Galvez led all Hilltopper runners with her finish.
“That’s awesome,” Foley said of Galvez. “Sophia’s really stepped it up. She was really good last year, too, but she’s really proved that she’s varsity material for sure.”
Hipwood said what’s going to be most important for the team down the stretch is to keep up with what they need to do in recovery, particularly with nutrition and hydration after races.
For another shot at a 4A crown, Los Alamos will probably again have to deal with the likes of Albuquerque Academy, which has a similar young-but-experienced lineup, and St. Pius X, which placed a pair of runners in the top 10 individually at state, but didn’t have the help on the back end it was hoping for.
Los Alamos will make just one home appearance this year, its regular season finale in late October.
It will have a tough stretch of meets late this month and early next month, however. Los Alamos will compete at the Academy Invitational, a smaller but tough race. From there, the Hilltoppers will go to the regional Twilight Meet in Phoenix, Ariz., then return a week later for the Rio Rancho Jamboree, which is run on the same course as the state meet.