• Hilltoppers aim to remain state contenders

    Though it may look like a year of rebuilding for the track and field teams at Los Alamos High School, but counting the Hilltoppers out at the state level would be a mistake.

    Both teams at LAHS lost a lot of talented seniors last year, forcing new, younger athletes to step up and fill the void.

    Those will be big shoes to fill, as last year’s senior class led both teams to top-four finishes at the state meet, including a runner-up finish for the girls’ team.

    Despite having to retool, optimism remains high that the momentum from last year will continue into the new season.

    “I just think we have a great team dynamic,” girls’ head coach Aaron Padilla said. “We had a standout freshman class last year that are sophomores now, so I feel like the talent and work ethic is there.”

    With 45 girls on the team, Padilla’s numbers are lower than last year, but he doesn’t necessarily see it as a negative.

    “We have a lot of quality girls on this team, and not just good athletes but good students and good people,” Padilla said.

    In terms of what he expects his team to be strong in, Padilla said relays would likely continue to be strong, as they were last year.

  • Atomic City Update: Former LAHS athletes find success after high school

    Unlike any other state I’ve seen, New Mexico honors and cares about its homegrown athletes. From Lovington’s Brian Urlacher, to Artesia’s Landry Jones and Albuquerque Academy’s Alex Bregman, star athletes are celebrated here unlike anywhere else when they find success later in life.

    And Los Alamos is no exception. Ever since he graduated, basketball star Alex Kirk has been doing exciting things and the town has taken notice. From playing in the NBA, to various countries overseas, he has never stopped making headlines. Now a member of Alvark Tokyo in Japan’s National Basketball League, he has decided to give back to the community that gave him his start in the midst of the best season of his professional career.

    This week, the Alex Kirk Foundation announced that it is offering a scholarship opportunity for members of the Española and Los Alamos Teen Centers, operated by the Family YMCA.

    One member of each teen center will be awarded $1,000 for participation in programs and services offered by the center.

    “We are looking for teens that have been actively engaged in the unique programs each Teen Center offers,” Kirk said. “And also for perhaps going above and beyond, like taking a leadership role or being a great peer mentor.”

  • LAHS softball prepared for big success

    The Los Alamos High School softball team is a confident and motivated group that appears ready to do whatever it takes to find success in May.

    Last season, the Hilltoppers won District 2-5A with an 11-1 record, and advanced to the state championship tournament as the No. 11 seed.

    However, for the fourth year in a row, that was the end of the road. Since 2014, LAHS has earned a spot in the state tournament only to lose by double digits in the first round.

    Ever since the season ended, the Hilltoppers have worked hard to reverse that trend, and believe this year’s group has what it takes to make a run at the state championship.

    For head coach Randy Burditt, the main reason for that optimism is how many girls he has returning from last year’s team and the amount of talent he will be able to put on the field every day.

    “That’s going to be our strength is our returners,” Burditt said. “They all worked hard in the offseason to get better, stronger, faster.”

    Among the returners Burditt will be counting on heavily this year is senior Jayde Tucker, the team’s starting catcher.

    “She comes with the credentials of holding the team together, and holding the pitching staff together,” Burditt said.

  • District 2-5A fills state basketball tourney with contenders

    Though Los Alamos High School failed to make the state championship tournament in either boys’ or girls’ basketball, the Hilltoppers’ district rivals will be well represented.

    District 2-5A will have three teams in the boys’ tournament and two teams in the girls’ tournament.

    The boys’ tournament, which begins at home sites March 3, features No. 1 seed Española Valley, No. 4 seed Capital and No. 11 seed Del Norte.

    Española Valley enters the tournament as the undisputed favorite in the tournament after going 25-1 in the regular season. The team also went undefeated in district play, going 8-0 and winning the district tournament. The team’s only loss of the season came against Rio Rancho High School in mid-January.

    Most impressively, the Sundevils defeated No. 4 seed Capital three times in the regular season in convincing fashion, 83-65 in Española, 90-66 in Santa Fe and 75-63 in the district tournament championship game.

    Española Valley will kick off the tournament at home Saturday against Valencia High School, the tournament’s No. 16 seed.

  • Atomic City Update: Plenty of blame to go around for disappointing basketball season at LAHS

    The end of any season is tough for players, fans and coaches. But the end of this basketball season is tougher than usual for everyone surrounding the Los Alamos High School basketball program.

    Combined, the boys’ and girls’ teams went 1-15 in District 2-5A play, with the only win coming in the girls’ final home game of the season against Capital High School.

    The frustrating thing is, with the talent on these rosters, there was no reason for the Hilltoppers to struggle as much as they did.

    The boys had six seniors that played big roles this season. As a basketball team, you can’t ask for any more experience than that. And these weren’t just average seniors, for the most part.

    Antonio Trujillo proved to be one of the most creative ball-handlers in the state, with the ability to make a highlight-reel worthy play every time he has the ball in his hands.

    Ramon Roybal is among the most deadly 3-point shooters, with seemingly limitless range, as he proved with a nearly half-court buzzer beater in the district tournament.

    The inside presences of Troy Hammock, Ivan Balakirev and Michael Naranjo proved capable of matching up with anyone, and Naranjo’s ability to drive toward the basket was an impressive sight to see on a nightly basis.

  • Rees earns ‘Compete with Class’ scholarship

    Sometimes, nice guys really do finish first.

    Los Alamos High School senior Ben Rees is among the New Mexico student-athletes who will be honored with merit-based scholarships next week at the state basketball tournament.

    Rees, who served as a captain on both the boys’ soccer team and the hockey team this year, has been selected to receive the “Compete with Class” scholarship, presented by the New Mexico National Guard.

    According to the New Mexico Activities Association, this scholarship is awarded to student-athletes who exemplify the ideals of sportsmanship and the Compete with Class initiative, which is the official motto of the NMAA.

    The scholarship is for $1,500, and was also awarded to Danika Nelson of Texico, Jordin Molina of Carlsbad and Mikayla Garnard of Santa Rosa.

    Rees, along with the other “Compete with Class” scholarship winners will be honored at halftime of the Class 2A boys’ basketball championship game at The Pit in Albuquerque. The game will begin at 6 p.m. on March 10.

    Ron Blue, who has known Rees since he was 4 years old and was his high school soccer coach the past three years, said he isn’t surprised to learn of the honor.

    “He is a great teammate and leader,” Blue said.

  • Tough season comes to an end for Hilltoppers

    With a loss in the first round of the District 2-5A tournament, the season has officially ended for the Los Alamos High School girls’ basketball team.

    The Hilltoppers, which entered the tournament as the No. 5 seed, traveled to Albuquerque Academy, the No. 4 seed, to begin the tournament, falling 48-40.

    This was the fourth meeting of the season between LAHS and the Chargers, with Academy going 2-1 in the regular season. The Hilltoppers won the first meeting in December’s Joe Armijo Tournament 47-35, while the Chargers won both meetings in district play, 45-38 in Albuquerque and 42-38 in overtime in Los Alamos, with every game coming down to the final minutes.

    In the early going, the fourth meeting looked much like the first three, with offense coming at a premium and turnovers coming early and often.

    The teams combined to connect on only four shots in the first quarter and ended the first eight minutes tied 6-6. LAHS’ only made basket in the quarter came on a 3-pointer from Jenee Montoya.

    The offense picked up in the second quarter, as the Hilltoppers made a strong effort to push the ball toward the basket and draw contact. The strategy paid off, as LAHS went to the free-throw line eight times in the quarter, connecting on four of the shots.

  • LAHS falls in first round of district tourney

    A season that began with so much promise for the Los Alamos High School boys’ basketball team ended suddenly this week, as the Hilltoppers fell to Albuquerque Academy 62-53 in the first round of the District 2-5A tournament.

    Much like most of the team’s district games, this contest will be remembered for LAHS’ inability to finish.

    This became a theme during the Hilltoppers’ season-ending 11-game losing streak, specifically in close losses against Academy, Capital and Del Norte.

    And much like those games, LAHS started strong in the district tournament. In the first quarter, the Hilltoppers connected on nine shots, including three 3-pointers. Two came from Ramon Roybal and the other came from Antonio Trujillo.

    While LAHS shot well from the field in the opening quarter, Academy shot well from the free-throw line, going 6-8, as the Chargers’ strategy was to get the ball inside as often as possible in an attempt to get the Hilltoppers’ forwards into foul trouble.

    LAHS only had three true inside presences active for the game, Ivan Balakirev, Michael Naranjo and Gabe Holesinger, making it difficult for any of them to play aggressively.

    Thanks to the strong outside shooting, the Hilltoppers led 21-17 after the first quarter.

  • LAHS finishes in top 10 at state swim meet

    Though only one competitor ended up with a top-3 finish, the Los Alamos High School swimming and diving teams had a good overall showing at the 2018 state championships.

    Both the boys and the girls teams ended up with top-10 finishes, with the girls finishing in sixth place and the boys finishing ninth.

    The Hilltoppers had four swimmers that qualified for the state meet in two individual events apiece: Jillian Bennett, Andy Corliss, Ian Jaegers and Sara Shiina.

    Shiina had the best showing of the meet for LAHS, finishing in third place in the 100-yard butterfly event with a time of 59.54 seconds. She also finished in eighth place in the 100-yard backstroke event with a time of 1:01.65.

    Bennett had a pair of top-5 finishes, earning fourth place in the 100-yard breaststroke with a time of 1:06.05 and fifth place in the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 24.97 seconds.

    Corliss ended up with a pair of 13th place finishes, in the 200-yard individual medley with a time of 2:06.77, and in the 100-yard breaststroke with a time of 1:02.03.

    Jaegers was also consistent, finishing in 13th place in the 500-yard freestyle with a time of 5:05.10, and in 14th place in the 100-yard backstroke with a time of 56.25 seconds.

  • Atencio wins state championship

    For the first time since 2014, the Los Alamos High School wrestling team has a state champion.

    Devin Atencio, a freshman in the 106-pound weight class, claimed the title by defeating all four of his opponents last weekend at the NMAA State Wrestling Championships. And he did it in convincing fashion, appearing in control throughout every match.

    “It feels amazing,” Atencio said. “I have been working at this for my whole life. It’s just a great feeling.”

    Last year, as an eighth-grader, Atencio finished in fourth place at the championships, easily getting through the first two rounds of the competition before falling in the semifinals and the third-place match.

    This year, he seemed determined to keep that from happening.

    In the first round, he faced Española Valley’s Joey Fernandez, who he defeated for the District 2-5A championship the week prior. Much like the first matchup, Atencio had little trouble defeating Fernandez, pinning him in 1:13.

    The quarterfinal round against Kirtland Central’s Devin Montano was equally dominant for Atencio, as he earned the pin just 32 seconds into the second round to advance to the semifinals.