By GEORGE MORSE
Los Alamos Daily Post
It was another classic battle between Los Alamos High School and Albuquerque Academy when the two teams squared off at the Albuquerque Academy Invitational cross country meet Sept. 28 in Albuqerque. The Chargers took first place in both the boys and girls team standings, with the Hilltoppers taking second place in both races.
The Academy Invitational is one of the most competitive meets in the state during the regular season. There were 21 teams competing in the boys race with a total of 143 runners. There were 19 girls teams competing with a total of 127 runners.
The margin of victory for Academy was a razor-thin two points in the boys race. Academy scored 73 points to Los Alamos’ 75 points. Albuquerque’s Volcano Vista High School took third place with 103 points.
Los Alamos was strongest at the top, with three runners finishing in the top 10 for the Hilltoppers. Senior Duncan Fuehne paced Los Alamos, finishing fourth with a time of 16 minutes, 10.81 seconds. Hot on his heels in fifth place and less than a second behind his teammate was junior Steven Strevell, who clocked in at 16 minutes, 11.56 seconds.
Sophomore Rafael Sanchez was seventh for the Hilltoppers with a time of 16 minutes, 22.78 seconds.
They were all ahead of Academy’s top runner, senior Skyler Forman. He finished ninth with a time of 16 minutes, 25.47 seconds. What pulled the Chargers ahead of the Hilltoppers was their ability to pack in their top five runners in a tighter group than Los Alamos. Academy sophomore Jesse Sanchez was 11th with a time of 16 minutes, 29.44 seconds. Junior Julian Garcia was 14th with a time of 16 minutes, 38.69 second, followed by teammate junior Oliver Pilon in 15th with a time of 16 minutes, 44.15 seconds. Academy’s fifth runner was sophomore Brian Armijo, who was 24 th with a time of 17 minutes, 06.84 seconds.
The Chargers pack time (the difference between their first and fifth runners) was 41.40 seconds. That proved to be the difference that overcame the Hilltoppers’ advantage at the top. After Los Alamos’ top three runners, the next Los Alamos runner was freshman Keith Bridges, who came in 30 th with a time of 17 minutes, 29.59 seconds. Junior Hunter Swavely was close behind Bridges, coming in 31 st with a time of 17 minutes, 34.84 seconds. Los Alamos’ pack time was one minute, 12.06 seconds.
Cleveland High School’s Yonas Haile, the defending Class 6A state champion, took first place with a time of 15 minutes, 49.72 seconds. Miyamura High School’s Ty McCray was second with a time of 15 minutes, 59.94 seconds. Epherem Zerai, the defending Class 4A state champion from Sandia Prep School, took third place with a time of 16 minutes, 00.56 seconds.
The girls race wasn’t as tight as the boys race. Academy took first place by a comfortable margin with 41 points. Los Alamos was second with 77 points. The makeup of the two teams are decidedly different. Four of Academy’s top five runners are seniors, while the youthful Hilltoppers did not have senior or a junior among their top five finishers.
Los Alamos was led by freshman Norissa Valdez, who finished ninth with a time of 19 minutes, 41.41 seconds. Next came an eighth-grader, Emma Montoya, who finished 13th with a time of 20 minutes, 04.81 seconds. Another eighth grader, Sophie Chadwick, came in 15 th with a time of 20 minutes, 13.31 seconds.
Sophomore Lidia Appell was 17th with a time of 20 minutes, 16.97 seconds. Another sophomore, Hannah Gartz, was Los Alamos’ fifth runner. She finished 23rd with a time of 20 minutes, 39.56 seconds.
Los Alamos’ pack time was just under a minute at 58.15 seconds.
Academy senior Zoe Hunter led the way for the Lady Chargers, taking second place with a time of 19 minutes, 02.53 seconds. Senior Jane Archibeck came in sixth with a time of 19 minutes, 31.91 seconds. A third senior, Celeste Martinez, was right behind her in seventh place with a time of 19 minutes, 36.50 seconds. Sophomore Grace Archibeck came in 12th for the Chargers with a time of 19 minutes, 49.53 seconds. Academy’s fifth runner was senior Toby Utterbach, who was 14th with a time of 20 minutes, 04.81 seconds.
Academy had a pack time of one minute, 02.28 seconds All of the Chargers top five runners had finished the race before Los Alamos’ third runner crossed the finish line.
Albuquerque’s Eldorado High School finished third in the team standings with 109 points. Eldorado’s Jasmine Turtle-Morales took first place with a time 18 minutes, 32.56 seconds. She was almost 20 seconds ahead of the second-place Hunter. Olivia Salter of Sandia High School in Albuquerque was third with a time of 19 minutes, 06.50 seconds.
Academy is coached by Espanola Valley High School graduate Adam Kedge. Los Alamos is coached by Rob and Kathy Hipwood. Since 2000, either Los Alamos or Academy has won the boys and girls state cross country team championship in their respective class with one exception. In 2007, Belen High School managed to break up the monopoly by winning the Class 4A girls championship.
Both schools have received national recognition for the excellence of their programs.
“We are very excited about the season the team is having and feel like they will continue to get better in the coming weeks,” Coaches Rob and Kathy Hipwood said Saturday in an email.
The Los Alamos varsity teams will be competing in the Pat Amato Invitational regional cross country meet Friday (10/5) in Denver. The Los Alamos “C” team will compete at the La Cueva Invitational Saturday (10/6) in Albuquerque.