Cross country: LA teams will travel to Arizona for NCN regional

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By Mike Cote

For those who didn’t get their fill of the rivalry at the Class AAAA state championship two weeks ago, fear not. The second round of what has turned into one of the best prep rivalries in New Mexico will be held Saturday.

As if New Mexico wasn’t big enough to contain it, however, the venue will shift to Tempe, Ariz.

The Los Alamos Hilltopper boys cross country team will square off against arch-rival Albuquerque Academy at the Nike Cross Nationals Southwest Regional Saturday in Tempe.

The race, a qualifier for the Nike Cross Nationals championship race — formerly called the Nike Team Nationals — which will be held Dec. 6 at Portland Meadows near the Nike corporate headquarters.

At Tempe, teams from across the southwest — New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado Utah and Wyoming — will compete for the right to move on to the championship race.

Los Alamos’ boys and girls are both scheduled to run Saturday, as are both teams from Albuquerque Academy.

Both the Chargers’ boys and girls are going in as the state’s Class AAAA champions.

Los Alamos’ girls finished third at the state championship race, held Nov. 8. Meanwhile, the Hilltopper boys finished second at the state title race, a scant two points behind the Chargers.

Kyle Pittman and Gareth Gilna of Los Alamos finished 1-2 for Los Alamos at the AAAA championship race. Pittman, a junior, ran a blistering 15 minutes, 19 seconds to win his first state championship, while Gilna, a senior, finished in 15:31.

Pittman went into the race just two weeks after having to sit out the Los Alamos Invitational because of a nagging knee problem.

The Los Alamos-Academy rival was punctuated at that race, however, by Nat Gustafson, who sprinted the final 50 meters to catch Academy’s Anthony Lauriello at the tape. Both runners finished in a tie for sixth place.

In the girls race, sophomore Megan Reader led the squad with a fifth-place finish individually.

At the 2007 southwest regional, the Hilltopper and Charger boys finished tied for first place in points, but the Chargers’ sixth runner, Damon Campbell, finished ahead of Los Alamos’ sixth runner, Daniel Hemphill, giving the Chargers the regional nod.

Los Alamos would have the last laugh of 2007, however, finishing second in the nation at the NTN race in Oregon.

Pittman is Los Alamos’ top returning finisher, taking 10th individually.

The Hilltopper girls finished 14th overall at the 2007 southwest regional. Holly Walker was their top finisher, getting 34th place.

Most of Los Alamos’ state meet contingent for both the boys and the girls are expected to attend the regional meet.