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Cross country boys win home meet, girls take second

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By Phil Scherer

This year, the cross country state championships in Class 4A will be battles between Los Alamos High School and Albuquerque Academy, as they have been so many times in recent years. Friday afternoon at the Los Alamos County Golf Course, the rivals provided a preview of what this year’s championship races will look like. 

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The Los Alamos Invitational, the Hilltoppers’ annual home meet, turned into a two-team battle for dominance in the boys and girls races. On the boys’ side, the Hilltoppers earned a tight victory with 39 points, compared to 41 for the Chargers. On the girls’ side, Academy came out on top with 31 points, compared to 48 for the Hilltoppers. 

As has been the case for much of the season, Duncan Fuehne, Rafael Sanchez and Steven Strevell set the bar high for LAHS with outstanding races. 

Much like the Northern New Mexico Challenge two weeks earlier in Santa Fe, the three Hilltoppers came to the finish line together in second, third and fourth places. This time, Fuehne was the team’s top finisher in second place with a time of 16:29.61. Right behind him was Sanchez, who came in third with a time of 16:30.04. Strevell took fourth place with a time of 16:30.52. 

However, it was the team’s other two scorers that helped assure victory for the Hilltoppers. Keith Bridge finished in 14th place with a time of 17:39.12 and Shawn Williams finished right behind him in 16th place with a time of 17:43.42. 

Those finishes turned out to be critical, as Academy placed all five of its scorers in the top 12, in 5th, 6th, 7th, 11th and 12th. 

LAHS finished with 39 points and the Chargers were right behind with 41. This is the first time the Hilltoppers have defeated Academy this season. In their most recent showdown, the Chargers defeated the Hilltoppers by two points at the Albuquerque Academy Invitational. 

For the girls, it was more domination by the two powerhouse programs. The Hilltoppers and Chargers accounted for 10 of the top 14 finishers in the girls’ race. The difference was that the Chargers had four runners in the top 10, compared to only two for the Hilltoppers. 

As has been the case throughout the season, Norissa Valdez was the top competitor for LAHS. Friday, she finished in third place overall with a time of 19:40.87. 

Only a freshman, Valdez has steadily improved in every meet throughout the season.

The rest of the Hilltopper scorers were grouped together about a minute behind Valdez. Emma Montoya finished in ninth place with a time of 20:26.56, Marin Kelly was 10th with a time of 20:30.11, Hannah Gartz was 12th with a time of 20:42.17 and Lidia Appell was 14th with a time of 20:46.77. 

Finishing right outside the scorers was Mabel Pyle, who was 15th with a time of 20:56.18. 

The Hilltoppers finished with 48 points, behind only Academy’s 31 points in second place. 

Before the highly anticipated rematches with Academy at the state championship meet Oct. 10, the Hilltoppers will compete for the District 2-4A championship Friday in Pojoaque. 

LAHS will compete against teams from Española Valley, Moriarty, Pojoaque Valley and Taos.