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It’s a milestone year for both the Los Alamos High School boys and girls track and field coaches.
Hilltopper girls head coach Paul Anderson will put on his stopwatch for the 10th straight year, while boys head coach Larry Baca is hoping his silver anniversary culminates with another golden finish.
Both Los Alamos’ track and field squads open their 2009 seasons Saturday, taking part in the Albuquerque Public Schools meet. The girls will run at Milne Stadium and the boys will be in action at Wilson Stadium Saturday morning.
Baca, who has been a low-key coach for the bulk of his career, would much rather see his team repeat as Class AAAA champion than pick up any personal accolades for being among the longest-tenured coaches in the history of the school.
He said the way his team’s spring workouts have been going, the Hilltoppers may just get another shot at a blue trophy.
“So far, it’s been great as far as our numbers and our attitude,” Baca said. “The kids are working really hard. It’s been very pleasant.”
In 2008, the Hilltoppers amassed 92 points at the state AAAA meet, scoring a comfortable 11-point victory over six-time champion Albuquerque Academy. No other team in the state finished with even half of Los Alamos’ total.
The Hilltoppers lost some key personnel off their championship squad — most notably Ruben Martinez, Martin Romero and Matt Zocco — but Baca said he feels good about his returners and his up-and-coming underclassmen.
“It’s exciting because the young kids are trying a lot of different things,” he said. “I hate to see kids at the end of their career find out they’re good at something. We keep going with attitude and work ethic. Those will be points at state.”
As is usually the case, both teams will spend much of the early parts of their season in Albuquerque.
Los Alamos’ boys and girls will compete in or near Albuquerque for the first month of the season, going to three APS meets and Rio Rancho’s Chile Challenge in that time, before they host their first meet of the season April 10.
The Hilltopper girls, Anderson said, have had some good workouts during the preseason and many of the athletes are chomping at the bit to get the season started.
“We’re kind of right where we want to be,” Anderson said. “We got through the beginning with no injuries except for, as (football coach) Bob (Scott) says, some oohies and owies. That’s part of getting in shape, getting up to full speed.”
In 2008, Los Alamos finished second behind Academy at the state meet. Los Alamos picked up 72 points at the meet but Academy held the Hilltoppers off despite a spirited late charge, picking up 78 points to win the title.
There doesn’t appear to be much of a shift in power in girls AAAA track and field this season. Once again, Academy will be heading into the season as the team to beat, with Los Alamos and St. Pius X — which finished third in 2008, picking up a very respectable point total of 63 — looking to knock the Chargers off their pedestal, while teams from the Four Corners can often figure into the endgame.
The Hilltoppers have the vast majority of their team returning from last season, with distance runner Margaret Wood being their biggest off-season loss.
Two-time sprint champion Amanda Trujillo will be back to defend her 100- and 200-meter championships. Trujillo upset Piedra Vista’s Kendra Woodson in the 200, nipping her by just three-hundredths of a second to win.
Trujillo finished second to Woodson in a third event, the 300 hurdles.
Los Alamos has a solid sprint and middle-distance contingent to go along with a good long-distance nucleus.
Following Trujillo, Emi Weeks returns for her junior year and Madison Ahlers, who came on strong at the end of her freshman year last year, will be back and looking to improve on a third-place finish in the 400.
Holly Walker finished second for Los Alamos in the 3200 and sixth in the 1600 meters and could be a big factor again.
The big question for the Hilltopper girls going into the season is “what level we’re going to be at this year,” Anderson said. “I think it’s the next level.”
For the Hilltopper boys, Jason Reagor is one of the top returning sprinters in the state. He finished fifth in both the 100 meters and 200 meters and helped seal Los Alamos’ state title in the 800 relay.
Along with Reagor, the Hilltoppers’ long-distance squad is among the most formidable in the state. Los Alamos’ 1-2 punch of Gareth Gilna and Kyle Pittman both finished in the top six in the 3200 meters. They will likely have to at least neutralize Academy’s long distance contingent at the state meet.
Dion Obermeyer is Los Alamos’ top returning field athlete. Obermeyer, a senior, finished fourth in the triple jump with a leap of 41 feet, ¾ inches.