LAHS XC among leaders at home meet

-A A +A
By Phil Scherer

For the first, and only, time in 2017, the Los Alamos High School cross country teams had the opportunity to run in front of a hometown crowd, and the runners did not disappoint, finishing among the leaders in every race.
More than 400 runners and 15 teams came together at the Los Alamos County Golf Course for the annual Los Alamos Invitational, which marks the end of the regular season for the Hilltoppers.
The varsity boys finished third, and the girls finished in fourth place. More importantly, though, is that among Class 5A schools, LAHS finished second in both races, behind only Albuquerque Academy.
LAHS head coaches Rob and Kathy Hipwood are encouraged by how well their team performed, and feel that the runners continue to improve at every meet.
“I think we feel good about the direction we are going,” Kathy Hipwood said.
Academy topped the Hilltopper boys by 12 points, and the girls by 15 points, setting up interesting matchups at the district meet this weekend, and the state meet at the beginning of November.
Rob Hipwood believes the Hilltopper boys will be one of the top three teams at the state competition, along with Albuquerque Academy and Kirtland Central, and that all three have proved to be capable of winning the championship.
“Whatever group of boys is able to perform the best on that day will be the one that wins,” Rob Hipwood said.
At the Los Alamos Invitational, freshman Rafael Sanchez led the Hilltoppers with a time of 16:42.62. He finished fourth overall. Senior David Apodaca of Cleveland was the overall winner, finishing with a time of 16:21.86.
Sanchez was pleased with his race, and believes he is getting stronger as the season moves along.
He felt like he tried to start a bit too quickly at the beginning of the race, and then settled in as the competition moved along.
“I was able to get into my pace and stick with the group, and I think I finished pretty good at the end,” Sanchez said.
One of the big keys for the team is bringing the pack time down, which is the time between the team’s first finisher and fifth finisher.
Sanchez and the coaches believe that a lot of progress has been made in that area since the beginning of the year, and that this meet was the best yet.
After Sanchez, the team’s other scorers finished in 10th, 12th, 14th and 15th, giving the team a total of 55 points, and a pack time of 53 seconds.
“They’re getting closer and closer, and they are doing really great,” Kathy Hipwood said.
Rob Hipwood added, “Relative to where it was at the beginning of the season, they are all certainly running well.”
Shawn Williams was the team’s second-place finisher with a time of 17:15.21, good for 10th overall.
Kathy Hipwood was quite complimentary of Williams, and said his hard work is paying off.
“He put in a really good summer of training, and all year has felt like he should be higher up,” Kathy Hipwood said. “He put together a really good race today.”
The other scorers for the boys were Duncan Fuehne (17:29.89), Steven Strevell (17:35.01) and Kevin Parkinson (17:35.29).
Josh Strevell, normally one of the team’s top finishers, was unable to run due to a minor foot injury, but the coaches expect him to be ready to go when championship season gets underway.
The coaches believe the girls are on an equally encouraging path as the state meet nears, and that improvement is evident.
“There were some really great performances today,” Kathy Hipwood said.
Most encouraging was that the team had two top-10 finishers in freshman Lidia Appell and eighth grader Norissa Valdez.
Appell finished third overall with a time of 19:40.75, and Valdez finished seventh.
Amanda Mayoral of Cleveland was the overall winner with a time of 18:38.07.
This was one of Appell’s top races so far, and she was very pleased with her results.
“I felt really confident during the race,” Appell said. “I upped the intensity in training recently, and I just felt like, ‘Alright, I’ve got this.’”
One of the reasons she was so confident was because her team runs hills every day, so competing at the golf course was nothing new.
“This is home,” Appell said.
Valdez had an equally impressive race, finishing with a time of 20:22.25, which helped the team get up to fourth place.
The team finished with 75 points, and a pack time of 2:17.
While the team would like to see that time decrease heading into state, Appell feels that the group is as ready as they can be as the biggest meet of the year approaches.
“All of us are hyped and ready to go,” Appell said.
The other scorers for the girls were Marin Kelly (21:15.95), Mabel Pyle (21:21.11) and Abby Beus (21:56.81).
The teams will now begin focusing on the championship season, beginning with the district meet this Friday in Española.
Following that meet, the team will prepare to head to Rio Rancho High School Nov. 4 to compete for the state championship.