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Atomic City Update: A look back at this year’s top moments

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By Phil Scherer

As I sat down this week to think about the greatest moments in Los Alamos sports so far this school year, I was amazed to realize how much success this community has been able to celebrate.

This is my third time doing one of these columns, and never before have I had so many tough decisions to make. Every fall sports team had outstanding moments and accomplishments, and narrowing the list down to five moments was no easy task.

Both soccer teams, both cross country teams and the volleyball team advanced to compete for state championships, and the football team provided fans with lots of memorable moments. As 2018 comes to a close, I would like to celebrate the good moments and acknowledge the tough endings. Every one of these teams has something to be proud of and it is always fun to take a look back.

I just hope the rest of the school year is filled with as many memorable moments as the first half was. If it is, this community is in for a real treat.

5. Football upsets Bloomfield at Sullivan Field

In a season filled with so much promise, LAHS’ game against Bloomfield in mid-September stands out as the brightest moment. Bloomfield entered the game as the No. 2 ranked team in Class 4A, while the Hilltoppers had lost to 4A No. 1 Taos two weeks earlier 47-0. Despite looking one-sided on paper, LAHS came up with key stops in the first half and kept the game close heading into the second half., traling only 14-7. From there, the Hilltoppers dominated by keeping the ball on the ground and running the clock. Dylan Irish ran the ball into the end zone to tie the score 14-14 and Stanlee Platero added two rushing touchdowns as the Hilltoppers won the game 28-20.

The scoring drives in the second half were impressive, spanning 15, 16 and 21 plays. It was perhaps the biggest win of Garett Williams’ coaching career at Los Alamos to this point. Bloomfield went on to play in the Class 4A state championship game, where Taos defeated the Bobcats 14-7.

4. Girls’ soccer battles Albuquerque Academy in state semifinals

When players from the Hilltoppers look back on this year’s state semifinal game against Albuquerque Academy, there will no doubt be disappointment and questions about what could have been. Yes, the Hilltoppers lost the game 2-1 in double overtime, but there is no doubt it was the finest 100 minutes of high school soccer I have ever seen.

After going through most of the first half with no real scoring threats, Academy jumped on top 1-0 in the final minute of the half on a goal by Eliza Mariner, the state’s leading scorer. Though it looked like that might be the final nail in LAHS’ coffin, Alix Hailey, the Hilltoppers’ leading scorer, evened the score just moments into the second half. The score remained 1-1 until the final minute of double overtime, when Mariner scored again, propelling the Chargers to the state championship game and sending the Hilltoppers home heartbroken.

3. Arthur Steinkamp scores 43 goals

There was no way to choose a single game in Steinkamp’s outstanding senior season. His season-long excellence is
something that will be remembered in the history of LAHS soccer, a standard that other players should hope to live up to.
Steinkamp was excellent throughout his high school career, but took it to a different level this year. Despite battling a foot injury early in the season that cost him opportunities to play, he delivered at every opportunity. In a seven-game stretch from mid-October through early November, he scored 28 goals and was the best player on the field every game.

2. Volleyball takes down Pojoaque twice to earn district titles

The storybook nature of the LAHS volleyball team’s season was amazing. After being an afterthought in mid-September with a 3-7 record, the team flipped a switch and lost only one time, to Pojoaque Valley, through the rest of the regular season.

Heading into the final regular season game, the Hilltoppers had to defeat the Elkettes to win the regular season district title. In their first matchup, LAHS lost in straight sets and didn’t look very competitive. In Ben Lujan Gymnasium, though, the Hilltoppers won a five-set thriller thanks to an outstanding game from Elodie Thelliez. A week later, the Hilltoppers defeated the Elkettes again to earn the district tournament title. It’s a season that will forever be remembered inside the halls of Los Alamos High School.

1. Cross Country boys win state championship

For the first time in four years, the LAHS boys’ cross country team earned a state championship trophy, and did it in dramatic fashion. The Hilltoppers defeated Albuquerque Academy 42-49, as Rafael Sanchez, Steven Strevell and Duncan Fuehne all placed in the top five overall.

The road to the state championship was anything but easy, because due to fire restrictions, the team was not able to run on the trails over the summer that are part of the normal training regimen.

Head coaches Rob and Kathy Hipwood were forced to be creative in finding solutions, and it all paid off in the end. Also impressively, the Hilltopper girls finished as state runners-up and battled the Chargers to the end of the race.