By Arnie Leshin
This weekend’s state track and field championship will still be held at the University of New Mexico’s oval, but it will have a new look.
It’s truly a change for St. Michael’s. It is moving from the second weekend, the busier of the two that had a 4A, 5A, 6A field. But the new alignment pieced together by the New Mexico Activity Association dropped 6A in everything but football, which left 4A and 5A in the second weekend, and also gave the first weekend a new look.
St. Michael’s went from 4A down to 3A, and instead of running first, the Horsemen and Lady Horsemen will now run third behind A-1A and 2A. That’s the new order for this Friday-Saturday championships. All schools that became 3A will join St. Michael’s.
It could be good news for St. Michael’s. If it continues its red-hot stretch run, it could add a fifth girl’s state championship under head Joey Fernandez. The four-straight came from 2004 to 2007. Its main competition could come from defending champion Santa Fe Prep, all under retiring head Tove Shere.
It was thought that last year was her final one as a coach, but fortunately for new head coach, Douglas Turco, she decided to assist him this season, and will again be hanging out by the fence in front of the stands encouraging the
Turco said that Shere has been great, that she knows the athletes and they have a world of respect for her. Her program won state in 2004, 2006. 2011, and last year. The boys have never won, but she’s had some good programs that have come close. The girls usually have more depth.
So it could be these District 2 city rivals vying for the state trophy and the top step on the podium. At the district championships held last Friday at St. Michael’s, it was a one-two finish. The Lady Horsemen placed first with 153 points, and the second place Griffins scored 98. The Horsemen, who have never won the state team title, rang up 167 points to Prep’s 94.
This is not to say that there won’t be other schools in the hunt, but St. Michael’s and Prep are looking good, and it won’t be surprising if they finish one-two in either the girls and boys, or both.
St. Michael’s boys have the depth, and it added 13 for state via the district qualifying, including two more relay teams to join the other two they already had. The Lady Horsemen qualified 13 and a pair of relay teams that has them also with four.
Prep lacks the depth, but has some outstanding individuals. The boys are led by senior Sam Sparks, who has qualified as the fastest in the 200 meters in the time of 22.7, number one in the triple jump (43-1), second best in the high jump (6-2), third best in the long jump (21-10.7).
He will no doubt have company in senior teammate Sean Coles, who has the second-best triple jump (41-11), the third-best high jump (6-0.5), and the fourth-best long jump (21-10.75). They are the strength of the four relays they have qualified for.
St. Michael’s boys also have some impressive individuals, but their strength is in numbers. Those that have the top qualifying ranking are senior Justice Johnson in the 800 (1:58.19), and he’s third-fastest in the 400 (51.34). Senior teammate Hayden Lee is second-best in the 400 (51.24), and senior Sebastian Alcaraz holds down the sixth spot.
Horsemen senior Derek McQuiston tops the high jump rankings (6-4), and senior Dominic Morgan is number one (164-10) in the javelin. McQuiston is also in the 100 dash and long jump. Morgan is also in the shot put and javelin and Lee is also in the 200.
And senior Justin Angel, one of the better distance runners in the state, has returned after being sidelined with a groin injury last season. He skipped the 3,200, but has qualified for the 1,600 with the fourth-best time (4:48.39), and Santa Fe Indian School sophomore Christopher Hunetewa is also in the race with the second-best time of 4:39.84, and has the fourth-best clocking in the 3,000.
But the one to beat in both distances is Zerah Epherem of Albuquerque Sandia Prep, with a best of 4:24.41 in the 1,600 and 9:41.53 in the longer run.
Angel will also test his speed in the 800, where he has the fourth-best time of 2:02.95, and his teammate Johnson has the best of 1:58.19, in what has the look of a strong field, with Epherem in there, too. Angel will probably run anchor leg for the sprint medley relay quartet.
And cheers and kudos to Horsemen senior Adrian Balderramos who has been hurt by football team injuries through the years, qualified for the shot put on top of the rankings at 46-0. It would be nice if he could step onto the podium. The top step would be number one for him.
St. Michael’s has qualified in the four relays, and this includes the boys and girls. They are both strong in each stick-pass, the boys with the top ranking in the 4 x 200 and 1,600 sprint medley, the girls in the sprint medley, and 4 x 100. The Griffin boys are not especially challenging in each baton-pass, but Sparks and Coles are.q
Now the girls.
Prep Junior Hayden Colfax is one of the most versatile athletes in the state. This is her fourth year at state, she has now qualified in seven different events, and has won two state titles. She is top qualifier in the 100 hurdles (15.20), high jump (5-4), triple jump (38-9), and second-fastest in the 100 dash (12.90). She goes from the jumps, to the sprints, to the hurdles, and will also run some relay legs that will cut down on her event limits.
Senior Daisy Cunningham is second to Colfax in the high jump with a best of 5-0. Then there’s up-and-coming freshman Isabel Voinescu in the triple jump and 100 dash, and sophomore Chelsea Griscom in the 800. The Griffins are also in all four relays, with the girls strongest in the 4 x 400 and the sprint medley.
The St. Michael’s girls have senior Janai Clayton with the top time (2:24.85) in the 800, and is also in the 1,600 after a stellar cross country season. Her senior teammate Violet Eklund took advantage of district in order to qualify in the 3,200, the 1,600 and 800.
Lady Horsemen senior Claire Lee has had a splendid season, and qualified in the 100 hurdles and 300 hurdles, and the triple jump as second to Colfax. Lee is sure to race a leg on the 4 x 200 relay, and junior Julie Kastendieck will run first legs on the 4 x 100 and 4 x 200 relays.
Sophomore Lily Barker, the 6-foot-1 star on the state championship volleyball team, qualified in the javelin and high jump.
NOTE: St. Michael’s boys are defending champions in the 4 x 200 relay. Prep’s Sean Coles is defending champion in the high jump, and Sam Sparks defends his triple jump victory. On the girl’s side, Santa Fe Prep is defending team champion, St. Michael’s graduate Lauren Chafins won the 400, Griffins’ Hayden Colfax won the triple jump and the 100 hurdles. Her triple this time is the best of the qualifiers in A-1A, 2A and 3A. Sparks’ long jump broke the Prep record that lasted 30 years.