RIO RANCHO – In August, few people thought the Albuquerque Academy Chargers boys cross country team could be touched for the state 4A title.
But on Saturday, the Chargers were bitten by the underdog Los Alamos Hilltoppers.
Los Alamos pulled off a stunning upset over Academy at the 4A championship race at Rio Rancho High School. Los Alamos nipped Academy by 2 points to earn its third consecutive team title.
This season, Los Alamos had only two returners from its championship squad of 2012. Most of its roster consisted of runners who had never even competed in a varsity race.
But its two seniors, Colin Hemez and Mike Walker, combined with solid efforts down the stretch by its next three runners who had never run at state prior to Saturday, was enough to outpace the Chargers.
Hemez, who has been among the most consistent 4A runners all season, earned the state individual title with an outstanding time of 15 minutes, 54 seconds.
He didn’t take off until the second half of the race – he was barely in the top 10 about three-quarters of a mile in – but pulled away from one of the race leaders, Aaron Valenzuela of Belen, with about a mile left to pick up the individual title.