It looked like all of Pecos came out to support its girls and boys cross country teams at Saturday’s state championships at Rio Rancho High School
Big turnout as Panther boys win 3A state title for third-straight time, while in 4A St. Michael’s juniors Justin Angel and Eli Steward place fourth and sixth
By ARNIE LESHIN, Santa Fe Today
A parade, all the state championships won by Pecos High School are followed by a parade through the family-friendly town.
But when the Panther boys ran up only 25 points Saturday afternoon and won their third-straight state 3A championship over the 5-kilometer course at Rio Rancho High, the parade was already there, for as soon as the team exited the stadium, all you saw and heard were Panther fans.
First it was a stadium-like roar as the Pecos faithful fashioned Panther shirts, jackets, hats, and hooped and hollered. There were young-and-old waiting to gather around the team that won five of the first nine places. And yes, mentions of another parade was heard.
Most of this team is familiar with the parades, for along with this trio of XC titles, the boys won last season’s state basketball championships and the state track and field the year before.
Senior Josh DeHerrera paved the way by taking second in 17:10.30 behind the winner, Coton Salvador of Laguna-Acuma, who clocked 16:51.70.
Next came Panther sophomore Isaiah Armijo in 17:12.65. Fifth was senior teammate Michael Montano timed in 17:34.50, and right behind him was junior Angel Varela-Gomez in 17:51.50.
The number five Pecos harrier was ninth-place sophomore Devin Gonzales in 17:55.75. And the number six runner, junior Issac Gonzales, Devin’s cousin, ran 16th in 18:58.25. And senior Carlos Cordova was 25th in 18:58.25.
“We work hard in practice,” said DeHererra, who comes off the 2-3A district championship when he finished first with a friendly dog from the nearby reservation keeping him company, “and it’s all serious stuff. Coach Patrick (Ortiz) runs with us, and so does his dad, Victor. So we came here ready to win again.”
And they did, they dominated unlike last year when former Pecos head coach Sal Gonzales, now coaching cross country at Rio Rancho High, sprinted across the football field to inform the Panthers they won by two points over Laguna-Acoma.
This one was wrapped up with ease, with runner-up Zuni scoring 63 points and Laguna-Acoma 70. But the Hawks, who had the individual winner, later came over to give hugs to the Panthers, showing sportsmanship and giving credit where credit is due.
Said Montano: “That was cool, but I don’t think they thought we would win so big. A parade? We love them. We have great supporters. Did you see all those Pecos people around, well that also inspired us.”
Patrick Ortiz, who was an impressive distance runner in his days at Pecos and was state 2-mile champion, couldn’t be happier. His boys took first, his girls took second, and it figures to be a parade to honor both.
Also in 3A, Desert Academy’s lone entry, junior Jacob Kaare-Rasmussen, finished 38th in 19:20.35, and Academy of Technology and The Classics’ lone qualifier, sophomore Cole Ferguson, was two places behind in 18:30.85.
Then there was Santa Fe Prep with a full team. Its two fastest runners, junior Adrian Whitten and sophomore Griffin Rutherford, were 23rd and 24th, respectively, in 18:50.10 and 18:52.90.
In 5A, Capital senior Joseph Namingha ran state for the third and final time, taking 30th in the time of 18:01.60.
In 4A, it was St. Michael’s juniors Justin Angel and Eli Steward right up there with the frontrunners, but it was West Las Vegas finishing first, second and third, with Dons’ senior Miguel Coca having the third-fastest time of the day when he won in 16:20.05.
Behind him was senior teammate JJ Esquibel in 16:45.05, and junior Isaiah Paiz was third in 16:50.65. In fourth was Angel with a creditable 17:04.65 and while Pojoaque junior John Hall took the fifth spot in 17:10.24, sixth place went to Steward in 17:13.50.
Justin and Eli were right up there, right from the start,” said Horsemen head coach Lenny Gurule, “but the three West Las Vegas runners just hung together and Coca had a lot left. Our third runner, Adrian (Vertuete-Maya), also ran well and finished 11th in our race.”
The team has but one senior, Dominic Smith, but he’s been the number seven runner, so Gurule is looking ahead to returning his best harriers next time around. St. Michael’s placed fifth in the team scoring with 119 points, 13 points behind the third-place team. Angel ran at a 5:30 pace, Steward at 5:33.
Ahead of the Horsemen in fourth was Santa Fe Indian School with 109 points and led by a 10th place finish from senior Thomas Lucero, who clocked 17:30.85. Behind him was fellow senior Cody Quintana in 17:52.25.
The Braves’ Michael Tenorio won state last year by the length of the stadium, but this time it was a much tighter finish. Tenorio has since graduated.
The day’s fastest time was by 5A winner Kashon Harrison of Kirtland Central, as the junior, second last year and third the year before, won handily in 15:54.85. He also won the championship race at the annual Desert Twilight 5-k run in Grande, Ariz.
Second fastest was 6A winner Yonas Halie of Rio Rancho Cleveland in 16:02.45. Angel was 21st overall and Steward 35th.