Cross country: LA girls pick up big win at Rio Rancho

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By Mike Cote

The Los Alamos Hilltopper girls cross country team pulled off a huge victory Saturday at the Rio Rancho Jamboree.
Los Alamos’ girls topped a powerful Class 5A Eldorado Eagles squad to take the title at the Jamboree, one of the biggest event of their season.
In all, 22 teams competed on the girls side Saturday and 29 on the boys side.
The Hilltopper girls finished with a scant 67 points, a very good total for such a big meet, taking four of the top 20 individual spots.
In the boys race, the Hilltoppers finished third overall, finishing with 133 points. The boys team competition was won by Albuquerque Academy, which dominated the meet, scoring just 31 points.
The final races of the season tend to be the ones where Los Alamos starts to make big improvements and the Hilltoppers are hoping this is no exception.
The Rio Rancho Jamboree is run on the same course as the upcoming state championship meet and this race is a major benchmark for the top teams.
But, as Los Alamos co-head coach Kathy Hipwood was quick to point out, the Hilltopper girls’ chief rival, Academy, was not at full strength Saturday.
Nevertheless, the Hilltoppers were pleased as punch with the win.
“We emphasized that this course has been good to us,” Hipwood said. “It’s a really interesting course. The first mile is pretty flat, there’s some rolling hills. We tend to run very well there.”
The Hilltopper girls are the defending Class AAAA champion, upsetting Academy’s Chargers on the Rio Rancho course last November for the state title.
Jennifer Mooday turned in her best performance of the regular season to lead the team to victory. Mooday earned a time of 20:12, which put her in eighth place individually.
Emily Pittman, who has been Los Alamos’ most consistent performer this season, finished in 11th overall, while Victoria Honnell finished in 18th place and Eliana Riciputi was 19th.
The strategy for Los Alamos heading into the meet was to pack together to break up Eldorado’s pack — Eldorado doesn’t have star power but is among the best packing teams in New Mexico.
The Eagles finished with 78 points. La Cueva was third, earning 123 points.
For Los Alamos’ boys, Daniel Roybal cracked the top 20 Saturday, posting a solid time of 16:55. Tim Wermer finished right behind Roybal in 21st place.
Hipwood said the boys team also put in a solid effort, but wasn’t as sharp as it might have been because of a tough workout during its week of preparation.
Saturday’s course was reported as being sandier than usual and was lengthened slightly from last year’s state title race.
Results from the Rio Rancho Jamboree will be listed in the Monitor later this week.