By Arnie Leshin
No doubt, there’s not a subway, a train that is, running through Pecos, not in New Mexico. What is also missing is a Subway Sub eat-in, eat-out site, and there are plenty of them around the state.
But the New Mexico Activities Association did get a Subway to Pecos, with the Subway Director’s Cup awarding the Panthers the 2A state winners
of the 2018-19 award, which is awarded annually to the top NMAA member schools in each classification based upon success in activities, athletics and sportsmanship.
And no doubt, Pecos High is certainly deserving of this. How about winning state championships in boys and girls basketball and girls cross country? It also was the state runner-up in boy’s cross country and cheer, which brings kudos to the girls.
Ira Harge, Jr., is head coach of the Panthers’ boy’s basketball team. He was 22 and 36 his first two seasons, but the next four brought a new look, a winning look, with four appearances in the state final that reeled in three state titles over District 7 rivals Texico and Santa Rosa, and last season it was over Newcomb, all at UNM DreamstyleArena.
“Attitudes, these kids have awesome attitudes,” he said. “and very coachable. We have kids showing up, about 30-35, trying out for the varsity and junior varsity, and if we still have enough candidates, we have a C Team, We usually wind up with about 27 kids, and choose about 20.
“We have two outdoor basketball courts in town, and you will always find kids there. One is at the middle school on our campus, the other behind the firehouse, and we often practice there as a team.”
Harge, Jr., is likeable, popular with the youngsters. He doesn’t rebuild, he reloads. Only two seniors graduated from last year’s 28-3 team that rolled over a good Newcomb team, 58-37, in the final, and he can count on perhaps about 11 returnees, some of whom played as 8th graders or freshmen on the previous champions.
He has pieced together 129 wins and 50 losses, but the last four seasons were simply super and resulted in a 107-14 record. He doesn’t usually have a tall team, but it doesn’t matter, his players all contribute to rebounds, all crashing the boards. His backcourt has excelled each time, some returnees and some newcomers.
Against Newcomb, which went 29-3 and was on a 16-game win streak, the Panthers led 16-9 afterone quarter, 27-16 at halftime, and 43-25 after three quarters. This was played the day before St. Patrick’s Day, and Pecos’ colors just happen to be green and gold.
The Pecos girls won their first state hoops championship under head coach Ron Drake, going 23-6 and defeating Mescalero Apache in overtime, 53-46, to hoist the championship trophy.
It was close until the OT when the Panthers outscored Elmer Chavez’ team, 15-8. It was 7-6 Mescalero after one quarter, and it was tied 18-18 at the half and Mescalero was in front 28-27 heading into the fourth quarter when Pecos held an 11-10 advantage and forced overtime.
Drake, who has won more girls games than any other coach in the state, is now in his first season as head coach of the Academy of Technology and The Classics girls, thought his Panthers, from freshmen to seniors, formed a well-balanced lineup that produced different game-winners many times.
“Good group of girls to coach,” he said. “We had a 8.8-average rebounder in sophomore forward Trinity Herrera, and a 14.4-average scorer in senior wing Cassandra Muller, our team captain. These girls were coachable, had great attitudes, and it was a pleasure to be a part of their state title.”
Not to forget the girls cross country team coached by former Pecos star distance runner Patrick Ortiz, and assisted by his father, Victor. Together, they have pieced together stellar teams made up of outstanding individuals, one of whom is junior Vanessa Dominguez, one of the state’s finest harriers and who is one of the favorites to win state 2A in November.
This is a squad without a senior.
It is composed of five freshmen, five sophomores, and four juniors. Freshman Misidawan Roybal is an up-and-coming youngster who now ranks behind only behind Dominguez and who could be a top-10 finisher at state. Behind the two is a team that stays close on the courses, with some going step-by-step together, a formula for winning.
Behind the two are sophomores Loryn Trujillo and Savanah Ortiz racing as the No. 3 and No. 4 runners.
“The girls are very coachable, they listen to me, and to my dad (Victor), and we coached most of them in middle school,” Patrick said. “They came into this season all fired up after winning state for the first time. They work hard at practice, some like the hills, some don’t, and they don’t like the thin air, but get used to it.
Patrick, a state champion in the 1,600 and 3,200, and who ran for University of New Mexico, also coaches the boys, and has won two state XC titles, as well as two in track and field, and this cross country team was awarded runner-up honors for 2018-19. Victor was head coach of the program in 2009, 2011, and 2013.
His son Issac ran for his dad for four straight years, but a hip injury slowed him down and required surgery. He remains a big supporter of his brother and father’s track and field and XC teams.
Same with the cheer squad coached by Jessica Flores. They, too, were second-best in the state, and kudos to senior Kaitlyn Maes in her fifth year on the squad. Cheering for four years have been Alexis Lovato, Kendra Flores, Janaha Vigil, and Jade Delgado.
There are six seniors on the present squad to cheer with five 8th graders, two freshmen, one sophomore, and four juniors.
The other classification winners were Melrose (1A), Albuquerque Sandia Prep, (3A), Albuquerque Academy (4A), and Rio Rancho Cleveland in 5A.
Melrose won a state championship in boy’s basketball and was runner-up in girls basketball and volleyball. It also received zero deductions by not having any ejections.
Sandia Prep won state in boys and girls soccer and girl’s track and field. In addition, the Sundevils were state runner-up in volleyball, boys swimming and diving, bowling and dance, and received zero deductions as it had zero ejections.
Albuquerque Academy won state tiles in girls cross country, boy’s soccer, girls golf, boys track and field, and choir. The Chargers placed second in boys XC, boy’s golf, and chess.
Rio Rancho Cleveland won state in boys cross country, boys soccer, girls golf, boys track and field, and choir. The Storm was runner-up in football, girls XC, wrestling, baseball, bowling, and concert band.
To which the NMAA says to stop at “Subways,”