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The Los Alamos Hilltopper cross country teams will go back to familiar territory this weekend for the Nike Cross National regional race.
Los Alamos’ boys and girls will run at the southwest regional contest Saturday in Mesa, Ariz., at the same site they ran the Desert Twilight Festival earlier this season.
The Hilltoppers will be joined from teams all around the southwest, including more than a few top teams from New Mexico, at the race. The top finishing teams at regionals will move on to Nike Cross National competition next month in Oregon.
The teams won’t be running as the Hilltoppers per se – New Mexico rules forbid school-sponsored competition after the end of the designated state season – but a big portion of the Los Alamos boys and girls programs will be taking part.
Hilltopper co-head coach Rob Hipwood said the teams’ runners were looking forward to the meet and weren’t feeling any undue pressure.
“It’s just a chance for the kids to run fast,” he said. “We don’t really know what to expect or where we can place...the kids want to see if they can get a (personal record) on the course.”
Both Los Alamos teams won the state Class 4A meet Nov. 9 in Rio Rancho. Los Alamos’ girls earned their fifth consecutive state title while Los Alamos’ boys clinched their third straight team title, the first time in program history they’ve won three consecutive championships.
The southwest region is the biggest in the country and Saturday’s meet will be a competitive one, but Los Alamos will be well represented.
In addition to the varsity Hilltopper teams, several Hilltopper individuals elected to make the trek as well. They have their choice of competing in one of several open races scheduled for Saturday prior to the two championship races late Saturday morning.
Along with Los Alamos, Albuquerque Academy, Eldorado and Rio Rancho, among other New Mexico teams, are scheduled to compete.
Hipwood said the teams have been going hard since the state meet to prepare for regionals and a chance to compete in Oregon.
“At the end of last week, we started creeping up the mileage a little bit,” Hipwood said. “This week, we’ve scaled back. Pretty much, we’re trying to keep the kids sharp. It’s a pretty low-mileage week.”