LA still among the teams to beat in Class 4A

-A A +A
By Mike Cote

It is one of the most impressive runs in state track and field history and the Los Alamos Hilltoppers are hoping history repeats itself.
Following this weekend, Los Alamos could have a good idea about where it stands.
The Hilltoppers will open their season Saturday at Albuquerque Academy’s Chile Quad Invitational.
Los Alamos is the four-time defending state 4A champion, one of the longest streaks in state track and field history.
This season, Los Alamos once again brings good balance between events which should keep the Hilltoppers in contention in 4A.
“It’s just kind of the usual thing, we’re trying to fill every spot,” Los Alamos veteran head coach Paul Anderson said. “We know we’ve got some really good distance kids, we got another state championship in cross (country). The thing is to sort out where they will all go on the track team is a little different.”
Saturday, Los Alamos will get a first-hand look at two of its main competitors for the state title, St. Pius X and Albuquerque Academy.
St. Pius has a solid distance team and can usually find enough athletes to be a threat at the state meet, while Academy had a young team in 2012 but will have most of its state-level performers back.
At the 2012 state meet, the Hilltoppers finished with 78 points, a solid total but one that was just large enough to fend off the Aztec Tigers — something the Hilltoppers may have to do again in 2013.
That total was buoyed by the second-straight high-point finish of the meet for Chase Ealey, two-time shot put champ and four-time 100 meter champ, who has moved on to be one of the top throwers in the nation in her short time with the Oklahoma State Cowboys.
Anderson said Ealey was a once-in-a-career performer.
“You can’t replace her,” Anderson said. “She’s an exceptional athlete. She was big in every way. She’s a big girl and she was a big personality…You don’t replace someone like that.”
One of the big questions heading into the season is how the Hilltoppers will be able to plug in the gaps that had previously been filled by Ealey. However, the Hilltoppers are sporting 54 athletes on their preliminary roster.
Even in events that may be lacking right now, Anderson said he feels confident the team can cultivate the performers it will need during the course of the season.
However, the Hilltoppers will have several returning scorers back from the 2012 state meet, not the least of which is Amy Neal, who scored an upset victory over Aztec’s Kendra Mitchell to win the 200 meters and who helped the 400 and 800 relay teams to wins.
Also returning this season is Laura Wendelberger for her senior year. Wendelberger won the high jump state title as a freshman and finished second in 2012, being one of just two athletes to clear 5-2 at the state meet, and finished third in long jump.
Los Alamos will be leaning heavily on Wendelberger, who is also one of the team’s top long jumpers and hurdlers.
The Los Alamos distance squad is again formidable and also brings a good mix of senior leadership and young talent to the table.