Girls cross country: Toppers nipped by Academy at home

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By Mike Cote

If the last two weeks of competition are any indication, the team that wants the Class AAAA state championship is going to have to earn it.

The two front-running girls cross country squads in the state, Los Alamos and Albuquerque Academy, are just a hair’s breadth away from each other and the state title could come right down to the wire one way or the other.

The Hilltoppers and Academy’s Chargers faced off for one final time in the 2009 regular season Friday, with the Chargers nipping the Hilltoppers at their home invitational.

Friday’s Los Alamos Invitational was held at Los Alamos Golf Course. In all, 14 full teams took part in the race, which closed out the regular season.

As was the case a week earlier at the Rio Rancho Jamboree, the showdown between the Hilltoppers and the Chargers came right down to the wire. The Hilltoppers placed four runners in the top 17 individually, but the Chargers, led by outstanding individual performances from Julia Foster and Paige Throckmorton, picked up a 64-77 victory. A week earlier at Rio Rancho, it was Los Alamos taking a 121-155 victory in head-to-head competition over Academy.

Foster and Throckmorton finished 1-2 individually Friday, ahead of third place Holly Walker of Los Alamos.

With Walker, seventh-place finisher Jennifer Mooday – who just outkicked Rio Rancho’s Jenna Padilla by less than a half-second – and 11th place finisher Megan Reader, Los Alamos looked like it might have for a second week in a row upended the Chargers.

But Academy’s Megan Dunlap and Meredith Harrington held off Los Alamos’ fifth-place finisher, Sylvia Holland, to pick up the team title.

Reader, who has been battling injuries much of the season, was lukewarm about the race.

“We all have high hopes that we don’t always reach,” she said afterward. “But it’s a good race. It was definitely as good as we expected and maybe better.”

For her individually, Reader labeled the race as “mediocre.”

The Hilltoppers were without the services of Victoria Honnell Friday. Honnell, who has been among the top two or three finishers for the Hilltoppers consistently in the 2009 season, was recovering from illness and the Hilltoppers didn’t want to push their luck trying to get her into Friday’s race.

Los Alamos would rather have a fully healthy contingent for the postseason, which starts Friday with the District 2AAAA race. Los Alamos isn’t expected to have much trouble claiming its 10th consecutive 2AAAA title and advancing to the state championship meet.

Walker and Throckmorton battled the entire way for second place Friday – Foster, arguably the best runner in the state, jumped out early to a commanding lead and never relinquished it – throughout the hilly front nine holes of LAGC. Walker grabbed second place over Throckmorton with a little over a mile to go in the race, but Throckmorton took over the position about 2-1/2 minutes later.

Hilltopper freshman Jennifer Mooday, who is having an outstanding first year with the team, finished in seventh Friday, while eighth-grader Emily Pittman, a very promising youngster, finished 17th in the race.

Here are the results from Friday’s Los Alamos Invitational.

Runners are from Los Alamos unless otherwise indicated.

Team scores

1. Albuquerque Academy, 64; 2. Los Alamos, 77; 3. Rio Rancho, 93; 4. Manzano, 104; 5. Cibola, 123; 5. Gallup, 138; 6. Gallup, 138; 7. Santa Fe Indian School, 156; 8. Hope Christian, 221; 9. Pojoaque, 238; 10. Bernalillo, 278; (tie) Santa Fe, 278; 12. Santa Fe Prep, 285; 13. Highland, 355; 14. West Mesa, 422.

Individual results

1. Julia Foster, Academy, 18:22; 2. Paige Throckmorton, Academy, 19:39; 3. Holly Walker, 19:47; 4. Tamara Lementino, Rio Rancho, 19:51; 5. Rylie Hightower, Cibola, 20:03; 6. Marlinda Pecos, Santa Fe Indian School, 20:17; 7. Jennifer Mooday, 20:20.04; 8. Jenna Padilla, Rio Rancho, 20:20.45; 9. Sophia Torres, Pojoaque, 20:22; 10. Caroline Lewiecki, Manzano, 20:28;

11. Megan Reader, 20:29; 17. Emily Pittman, 20:58; 39. Sylvia Holland, 22:01; 61. Teresa Sandoval, 22:44.