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Commentary: Year that was for the high schools

Oh what a year it was, nasty weather arrived to postpone fall, winter and spring events, Santa Fe and the surrounding areas produced state champions, and seniors chose their college choices

It’s still a month until summer is official, but do have a wonderful time, stay well, drive safely, be sober

Sports Commentary by Arnie Leshin

Commentary by Arnie Leshin

The stretch run again belonged to the state track and field championships, with 4A-6A schools winding down at the University of New Mexico.

It was good weather there the past two weekends, with the 1A-3A schools competing the previous Friday and Saturday. The temperatures reached as high as 75 this past Saturday, but no way can it be compared to as uncomfortable a place like South Florida, which is fittingly called the Sunshine State.

Down there, it was a huge concern to those attending an event like this in that weather. You suffer from the humidity and you certainly work up a sweat. A breeze? If you can find one. Wind? The same. No, it’s you against the sun, and there’s always sand no matter where you lived.

Not so in the Land of Enchantment. No sweat. A breeze? Of course. Wind? It comes and goes like the quick change in the weather. But high temperatures, no problem. That’s the way it’s been for yours truly since finding my way to the City Different in the year 2001.

It was, for me, three days and three nights, me and my “Pretty Bird” traveling to a new state. Two thousand miles to a place I’d never been to (and neither had the bird).

The multi-colored green-cheeked conjure kept me going with her chatter. She was only 6 months old when I purchased her for $200. Now, she will turn 18 on May 17, and still keeps me going.

Yes, I escaped the heat, the sweat, the pot holes, the traffic, the hurricanes, and the miserable years spent reporting sports for the Miami Herald. A boxing or wrestling assignment almost always became a rush to deadline. Once, I had to dash away from a mugger. Another time, I volunteered to hand over a few dollars to a mugger who wasn’t that bad a guy.

But that’s gone. I left it all behind.

No muggings here, no sweating, no pot holes (at least not as deep and dangerous as down there), no hurricanes, no alligators, no swamps, etc. etc.

And I can report that the New Mexico Activities Association is far better than the same such association in Florida. Better communication, events run better, and you’re always welcomed, not lectured to.

Enough. Let’s take another path to the year that was in the Santa Fe area and parts around it.

It began in the fall with cross country, football and soccer. Santa Fe Indian School senior Michael Tenorio won the state 4A XC championship, St. Michael’s lost in the state football quarterfinals.

Santa Fe Prep’s boys came away with the 3A soccer title on junior Jacob Cook’s game wining goal, the St. Michael’s girls lost in the championship game under first-year head coach Gerzain Chavez, and it was a disappointing early exit for the Capital boys in the state tournament.

Then there was Pecos running off with the state 3A cross country title and then doing the same in basketball by finishing with 24 straight wins. Also in hoops, Capital High’s boys lost in the 5A semifinals and the Horsemen boys in the 4A quarterfinals.

Volleyball for the girls and wrestling for the boys joined basketball in the winter. St. Michael’s made it to state in volleyball for the first time in four years, didn’t win anything, but was no doubt improved although head coach Josie Adams did resign after the season.

Wrestling for St. Michael’s didn’t do as well as expected when its top grappler, senior Xavier Vigil, expected to win another state crown, injured a knee in the state football tournament and was done after five solid years in the sport. He’s set to attend University of New Mexico to play football.

But Capital did well with state champions and a best-ever third place in 5A, as did Santa Fe High, with head coach Stephen Burns putting together a confident squad that had to contend in tough 6A.

Getting to the spring sports, it was a weather-changing time that brought rain, snow, hail, wind, and treacherous road conditions. Baseball games were postponed by snow storms that fell two days before May. Games had to be made up, which made for the NMAA having to announce its state tournament field two days past the scheduled time.

The nasty weather conditions also put a damper on track and field. Several meets had to be postponed, even cancelled. Fortunately, the skies were sunny and the temperatures were comfortable for the state championships.

Golf had a real problem as the courses were affected greatly, and in the state championships in the Pinion Falls GC in Farmington, St. Michael’s girls only had to grab a first-day lead as they were rushed off the unplayable course in day two and awarded the championship. The Horsemen finished third under the same conditions.

Not to forget the basketball season suffering from the same elements, mostly snow storms that brought numerous postponements, but of course this was winter time when this is expected.

And not to forget the rainy, nasty night of football when Santa Fe High, Capital and Indian School were outscored 132-0. St. Michael’s was off, but the Demons lost their 18th in a row, 53-0 to Goddard, the Jaguars were blanked at Moriarty, 25-0, and the Braves fell 54-0 at Taos.

In softball, the area was shut down and out of the state tournament when not a single Santa Fe school was chosen. In baseball, St. Michael’s gained the state semifinals after winning district.

Track and field was the last to compete in the school year. This brought a state 1A discus title to Santa Fe School for the Deaf sophomore Devon Thompson, all of 6-feet-7. He finished second in the shot put.

Also in A-3A final, Santa Fe Prep senior Patrick Boyd was “true grit”, injuring his foot after winning the 100 meters, and then shaking it off to also win the 200. The Griffin girls received a state 100 hurdles title from freshman Hayden Colfax, and senior Elizabeth Whiting was first in the 800. Also, the Academy of Technology and The Classics boys ran first in the 4 x 100 relay for their first state title in the relays.

The following weekend, junior Lucas McNatt was Capital’s lone qualifier in 5A and triumphed in the high jump.

St. Michael’s gained a state-record victory from senior Jocelyn Fernandez in the javelin, capping off a year when she was named the state number one girl athlete. She competed in soccer, basketball, football, softball and track and field.

Despite an injured thumb, she played goalkeeper and on the field in soccer. In football, she became only the second girl in state history to score a touchdown. Not only that, but she made good on 7-of-7 extra-point kicks in a night game at Indian School. She finished with 11-of-12 for the season.

In basketball, she played any position needed and was often the one the other team had to keep contained. She could score inside and outside, and in her junior year, she tossed in a girl’s school-record 46 points. In track and field and softball, it was one or the other as she hustled from running and throwing to catching balls in the outfield and handling the bat.

But she has yet to announce her college plans.

Most have already done so, including Whiting declaring for Dartmouth, St. Michael’s distance runner, Austin Luttrell, will attend Emery-Riddle in Arizona, Horsemen track and field’s Esteban Alcaraz is looking toward Adams State in Colo., with Indian School’s Tenorio going on to Bacone College in Wyoming.

Capital girl’s basketball player, Rachel Friend, will be traveling to University of Antelope Valley in California, while Lady Horsemen basketball’s Danielle Vigil is set for Adams State.

St. Michael’s All-State Nique Enloe, injured all of her final soccer season after knee surgery, will be playing at Division III University of Texas-Dallas, while St. Michael’s golfer, Allen Sanchez, will be going on to New Mexico Junior College in Hobbs.

Jeremy Anaya of Capital’s basketball team is going to continue on at Northern New Mexico College in Espanola, joining former teammate Eric Coca. Espanola Valley’s basketball star, Alexis Lovato, will also be going there.

For five-time state wrestling champion Jose Tapia of Capital, he’s still searching after signing for Boise State in Idaho and finding out shortly after that the school had dropped the sport.

Coaching changes were many. St. Michael’s replaced resigning boy’s head basketball coach, Ron Geyer, and girl’s head coach Martin Romero with Dave Rodriguez and Martin Esquibel, respectively. Capital fired girl’s hoop coach, Dale Lucero, and replaced him with Jonathan Salazar.

Up at Espanola, girl’s head basketball coach, Cindy Roybal, resigned and was announced as the girl’s head coach at Santa Fe High. Johnny Abetya now takes over the Sundevils’ program, and James Branch is the new boy’s head hoops coach after contracts for coaching brothers Richard and Eric Martinez were not renewed.

With Santa Fe High head football coach, Ray Holladay resigning, the Demons selected former St. Michael’s assistant, Andrew Martinez, to head a program that hasn’t won a game since 2014, or since it was installed into 6A.

But Capital’s Bill Moon is coming back for his 35th year as a football coach, fifth in his return to the Jaguars after starting the program in that role in 1988. Santa Fe High’s Zack Cole did a fine job in his first season coaching the boy’s basketball team, and Augustin Ruiz did the same with St. Michael’s in baseball.

One of the highlights of football halftime came in Capital’s home game against Goddard, which turned into a rout for the Rockets, but at the break it was Jaguars’ match teacher, Jason Ware, just inches away from an attempted 50-yard field goal and winning $25,000.

At Genoveva Chavez Community College, it was leak time, the worse since 2000, as problems with the roof forced a basketball tournament there to be postponed.

Then there was the stunning news that they were shutting down the Santa Fe University of Art and Design to the disappointment of students and facility members.

Then there was the announcement by the NMAA that it has plans to drop from six classes to five, with the possible exception of football. This would go into effect the season of 2018-19.

Not to forget the Santa Fe Fuego as it goes from player to player, from manager to manager, from controversy to controversy. There appears to be no light at the end of the tunnel for this semi-pro whatever, but it sure does get space in the daily newspaper.

This is a real funny that occurred at the Pojoaque Valley baseball game at St. Michael’s. There, the Santa Fe New Mexican reporter became somewhat confused in writing the next day about Elks’ head coach Bob (Kurt) Mueller and assistant Konrad Mueller.

Except that the reporter wrote that Konrad, “the father”, was trying to keep his “son”, Bob, from charging the home plate umpire. Wrong and wrong, a bad one for the media.

And have a wonderful summer, although it doesn’t arrive officially until June 23. Don’t party too much, don’t drink too much, don’t drive too fast, and don’t sweat the small stuff.

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