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Cross country impresses at UNM Invitational

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By Phil Scherer

Both cross country teams started the season strong at the UNM Invitational last weekend in Albuquerque, as the girls finished second and the boys finished third despite tough weather conditions. 

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The start of the race was delayed by lightning, which forced the event schedule to shift, and rain continued on and off throughout the morning, making the course more challenging than normal. 

However, the conditions didn’t keep anyone from having a strong meet. The varsity boys raced first, and ended with a third place finish, behind only Albuquerque Academy and El Paso Americas, a school from Texas. 

Steven Strevell went to the front immediately, fell back a little in the middle, and came back for an incredibly strong second place finish to last year’s state best Kashon Harrison of Kirtland Central. Duncan Fuehne also ran aggressively and fought hard throughout for a seventh place finish.

Head coaches Rob and Kathy Hipwood were impressed with the performance of both runners. 

“Those two really emerged on the scene last track season and were ready to start where they left off,” Kathy Hipwood said. 

Strevell finished with a time of 16:16, and Fuehne finished with a time of 16:29. 

Elijah Velasquez finished with a time of 17:29, Wyatt Watson finished with a time of 17:47, Hunter Swavely finished with a time of 17:57, Rafael Sanchez finished with a time of 18:03 and Noah Bridgewater finished with a time of 18:43. 

“With a few kids dealing with some physical adversity today, their third place finish to Academy and a very impressive El Paso school is incredibly promising,” Hipwood said. “We’ll be working on bringing down the pack time throughout the season.”

There were 25 schools that earned points in the boys race, including several schools from Arizona and Texas and many top contenders from around New Mexico.

The girls were even more impressive, finishing in second place, only five points behind Albuquerque Academy, and far ahead of Rio Rancho, which finished in third place. 

“The entire team, from start to finish kept the pressure on and it paid off for them,” Hipwood said. 

The team had three runners finish in the overall top 10, Norissa Valdez in third, Emma Montoya in sixth and Lidia Appell in ninth. 

Valdez finished with a time of 19:31, while Montoya finished with a time of 19:53 and Appell finished in 20:10. 

The other varsity runners were Mabel Pyle, who finished with a time of 20:30, Marin Kelly, who finished with a time of 21:03, Hannah Gartz, who finished with a time of 21:07 and Tia Hartzol, who finished with a time of 21:12. 

“It feels as though the sense of purpose and positivity the girls showed today is greater than we’ve seen at a season opener in a long time,” Hipwood said. “They are really enjoying themselves and each other.”

LAHS’ next competitive race will be Sept. 15 at the Taos Invitational, which will include races for the varsity, JV and C teams.