Track and field: Pittman concludes career with win

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By Mike Cote

ALBUQUERQUE – Buzzes at state track and field meets often get going by what an athlete might do.

In the case of Kyle Pittman, the buzz all centered around what he wasn’t doing.

Pittman, the premier prep distance runner in the state, wasn’t even going to attempt a clean sweep of the distance events, a feat that his friend and predecessor, Gareth Gilna, attempted and completed one year earlier.

Pittman elected to forego the 800 meter contest, which he was a slight underdog in behind Albuquerque Academy’s Alex Herring, in favor of running the 800 leg of the 1600 medley relay.

His main concern, when changing his mind, was not that he liked or didn’t like his chances in one event as opposed to another, but that if his relay team could carry the sprint medley, the Hilltoppers as a whole would be better off for it.

It turned out to be the right choice in almost every way.

Not only did Pittman come up a little short in the second leg of the prep track and field triple crown – he finished second behind Herring – but Pittman ran one of the best 800 legs posted in recent state meet history.

Within seconds of his finish, radios attached to the belts of almost every volunteer worker at the track started to crackle.

“Did anyone get that kid’s 800 split?” someone said over the radio. “It had to be close to 1:50.”

It wasn’t quite 1:50, but it was still pretty good. Pittman was clocked by his cross country coach, Rob Hipwood, at 1:57.50.

Pittman was in sixth place when he received the stick following the 400 leg.

“I thought, personally, it’s the most ideal place for me to get the baton in a relay,” he said. “I tell myself, ‘I’ve got to catch him this 100 meters, I’ve got to catch him in the next 100 meters.”

Los Alamos’ team of Alper Unal, Dan Christensen, Tom Day and Pittman won the event with a time of 3:37.75, with Pittman holding off Academy’s team by just a little over a second. The final leg was made all the more impressive due to a pretty stiff and steady wind that blew throughout day two of the AAAA championship meet, held at Great Friends of UNM Track and Field Complex. The wind, at least in part, made for some unexpectedly slow times in most of that day’s events.

It was his second state championship of the meet – he ran a shrewd race in the 3,200 the day before to win that state title, upsetting Herring and longtime Academy rival Pat Zachar\ias in the process – and the third of his school year. Pittman earned his second consecutive victory in cross country in November.

Pittman had a stellar cross country season in the fall of 2009. Piror to his final appearance at home in October, he had not been defeated in a race within the state of New Mexico.

Although that streak would get snapped at the Los Alamos Invitational, he would bounce right back to claim the state AAAA individual title with  plenty to spare. He won the title by 11 seconds over runner-up Zacharias.

Over the next few years, Pittman should get rather accustomed to the all-weather surface at the UNM track complex. He signed to run track and cross country for UNM’s Lobos earlier this year.

Larry Baca, the head coach of the Hilltopper boys track and field team, noted how beneficial Pittman has been to his program as a whole, although Baca admits he can’t take much credit for it.

“He’s Rob’s pupil,” Baca said. “He’s helped Kyle achieve what he’s achieved. But Kyle’s a great runner and he’s an even better person.”

Pittman won’t be back next season, however. It’s still up in the air whether Baca, who has led the track and field team for 26 consecutive years and seen the Hilltoppers win 17 consecutive district titles, will be back next season.

Even with all of the success he had over the course of his prep career, which included part of two state team titles, one in track and field in 2008 and an upset victory by Los Alamos over Academy in 2009, he said he still had the jitters going into the final track meet of his prep career.

“I was feeling nervous,” Pittman said of going in. “It was not even so much other people, but for myself to finish my career. I’ve had a great career, but no matter what happened, Mr. Hipwood told me that no one could ever take that away from me.”