5A cross country: Academy girls squeak by LA

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By Jose Corral

The potential and bright future of the Los Alamos girl's cross country team might outlast the inability to win an eighth-straight state title.

The Hilltoppers placed second at the Class 5A state cross country championships on Saturday at Rio Rancho High School, ending their streak of consecutive state titles at seven.

Los Alamos didn't have any senior runners and was six points shy of an equally young Albuquerque Academy team that finished with 52 points to win its first state title since 2008.

"It was a great race," Los Alamos junior Zoe Hemez said. "There were a lot of great runners out there. (The course) was fast since the weather was a little cooler."

Hemez led the Hilltoppers finishing second individually (19:17.55) and two seconds behind first-place finisher Carly Wall of Academy.

Hemez jumped out to the lead during the first quarter-mile of the race. She slowed the pace halfway through the race and at one point was in fifth place. But in the final stretch, Hemez made her move and helped Los Alamos get as close as its been to the Chargers all season.

"Around the middle of the race, it's just go time," Hemez said. "Then you have to really kick it in. I just kept thinking about my team and give us the best shot at the best score. That was super important."

As expected, the rest of the top-10 was mostly a battle of Hilltoppers and Chargers. Los Alamos eighth-grader Lidia Appell, who was the Hilltoppers second-best runner, placed fifth with a time of 19:36.15 and ahead of Academy's second runner Celeste Martinez.

Los Alamos sophomore Marin Kelly placed 10th and four places before the Chargers next finisher. But Academy's Lillian Martinez, Sarah Weber and Katrina Yepez finished in 14th, 15th and 16th to eventually becoming the difference for the Chargers.

"We were really solid. I thought everybody just put it all out there and gave everything they had," Hemez said. "I'm just so proud of the whole team."

Freshman Abby Beus (19th) and sophomore Paulina Burnside (22nd) rounded out the Los Alamos scorers.

The Hilltoppers will return everyone who ran on Saturday.

"We're just going to have a really strong team in a year or two," Hemez said. "Everyone will have more experience. I'm just excited for it."