Boys track and field: Topper boys win big despite injuries to sprint squad

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By Mike Cote

Jason Reagor was really looking forward to the final event of Friday’s Los Alamos Quadrangular.

“We were going to have the distance runners versus the sprinters,” said Reagor, a senior and one of the Los Alamos Hilltoppers’ top sprinters. “I was excited to watch, but that fell through.”

The reason the anticipated showdown fell through was because several of the Hilltoppers came down injured during Friday’s meet at Sullivan Field. Runners Raul Rodriguez, David Brock and David Bjorklund all suffered pulled or strained hamstrings at Friday’s meet, the severity of those injuries wasn’t known although Brock had to be carried off the track due to his injury late in the day.

With cold weather settling in as the meet progressed, injuries started to settle in as well.

“Guys were dropping like flies,” Los Alamos head coach Larry Baca said. “A couple of guys weren’t warming up properly. If they’re not sweating, they’re not ready to run.”

Despite the rough outing, the Hilltoppers still breezed to victory in their home contest, their first home appearance of the season. They earned 208 points on the day, nearly twice as many as second place Belen, which grabbed 106 points to edge out third-place Hope Christian. Class AAAA school Valencia was a distant fourth.

Friday’s weather started out as decent — this annual quadrangular is hit with some pretty harsh conditions more often than not — but as the afternoon wore on, the temperature dropped and the sky became overcast. The weather conditions may have played a factor in the amount of injuries suffered by the Hilltoppers.

But Los Alamos still picked up at least one top three finish in every event Friday, dominating most of the running events from start to finish.

The Hilltoppers also won all four relay events. Those were won because of raw speed, however, and not because of flawless execution, particularly in the 400 meter relay.

The first two of Los Alamos’ handoffs were marginal, but the third handoff to Reagor, the anchor leg, was made within just a hair’s breadth of the exchange zone. Reagor had to toe dance at the line just to get the handoff and, in doing so, dropped back from neck-and-neck for first to third.

Reagor’s blazing fast anchor leg pulled him just ahead of Belen’s anchor at the finish line to take the event.

“That won’t happen at state,” Reagor said of the team’s ability to come back from handoff trouble. “The handoffs have got to get better.”

Baca, who shuffled some personnel around for the relays, said he wasn’t as concerned about the handoff troubles Friday.

“We discussed in detail the handoffs we had at the (Albuquerque Public Schools) Invite, especially the 4-by-2, they weren’t very good. We thought we had a shot at a school record…We’ve had a half-a-dozen relay teams that coulda, woulda, shoulda and didn’t.”

Despite the rapidly dropping temperature, the Hilltoppers’ final relay, the 1600 relay, was impressive. Kyle Pittman, running the third leg, added a full two seconds to Los Alamos’ lead while anchor leg Gareth Gilna slammed the door shut on Belen, Los Alamos’ only real competitor throughout the race.

The Hilltopper squad finished with an impressive time of 3:34.31 in the 1600 relay.

The runs by Gilna and Pittman weren’t their only impressive showings of the day. The two battled it out in the 800 meters.

In what early on became a two-man race, Pittman charging through the last 220 meters to win by nearly two seconds. Pittman posted a finish time of 2:00.93.

Pittman has had a solid season for the Hilltoppers by most standards, except his own.

“I’ve done quite a few races, but I don’t feel like I’ve gotten that many races in where I’ve hit certain improvements,” he said.

Also Friday, Garrett Idler needed just three high jumps to take the top spot in that event, edging out Belen’s Orlando Castillo who just clipped the bar on his third attempt at 6 feet, while Idler sailed over on his first attempt at that height with plenty to spare.

Idler also tacked on a second-place finish in the 300 hurdles and a third-place finish in the triple jump to round out a solid day for him.

Idler will be among the eight Hilltoppers headed to Monday’s Meet of Champions, as will many of Los Alamos’ top finishers in Friday’s meet.