Flying through the air – in a perfect combination of vertical angle and horizontal thrust – Questa’s Helena Padilla sliced through the mile-high zephyrs of University Stadium to defend one state title and to steal away another at the New Mexico track and field championships May 5-6. The results the senior athlete sought came to fruition with first-place medals in the girls long jump and the triple jump.
In the long jump, Padilla matched her top distance of exactly 16 feet, 7.5 inches from a year ago – when she won her first title in that event – to keep her crown. Padilla had been competing in the long jump since she was an eighth-grader and improved in distance and place every year – except this past state performance, where the pinnacle had already been attained. As an eighth-grader, Padilla came in 18th place at state with a distance of 13 feet, 1.75 inches. As a freshman, she improved slightly with a 17th-place finish, recording a distance of 13 feet, 7 inches.
The breakout year for Padilla came in her sophomore year when she improved by just over 2 feet with a distance of 15 feet, 7.25 inches to claim fourth place in the long jump – behind three senior jumpers from Cloudcroft, Melrose and Ramah high schools. Her junior year saw stellar results in multiple events at the state meet, where she came away with four place medals and her first individual title in the long jump – improving again by a full 12.25 inches.
In the triple jump, she bounded to a personal best of 34 feet, 6.5 inches on her fourth attempt to claim the state title. Though Padilla only had two jumps that were greater than 34 feet, she was never in any danger from other athletes who would finish more than a foot behind the Questa Lady Cat. In the triple jump last year, Padilla came in second place with a distance of 33 feet, 11 inches, behind Taea Hill from Ramah. And similarly, every year Padilla has been competing in the triple jump – which requires extra precision and timing due to the added jumps before the final liftoff – she has shown improvement. In 2015, Padilla recorded a distance of 28 feet, 7 inches to claim 14th place. In 2014, she garnered a 16th-place finish with a distance of 28 feet, 1 inch. Padilla did not participate in the triple jump as an eighth-grader in 2013.
With the 14 points gained by Padilla for both of her first-place finishes, the senior track star provided a majority of Questa’s total team haul of 17.
The Lady Cats also acquired points from a fifth-place showing in the girls 4-x-100-meter relay. The relay team, made up of Padilla, Kiana Passino, Christina Cisneros and AnnaMarie Sanchez, were awarded two points for their efforts as they crossed the finish line in 53.55 seconds. Questa also received one point from pole vaulter Anastacia Gonzalez, who cleared 6 feet, 6 inches to claim fifth place.
The Lady Cats came in 12th place as a team behind the Cloudcroft Lady Bears and Logan Lady Longhorns, who tied for first place with 68 points apiece. The Fort Sumner Vixens were third with 51 points followed by the Hagerman Lady Bobcats, who claimed fourth place with 40 points. Rounding out the top teams in Class 2A were the Jal Lady Panthers (fifth place with 27 points), Tatum Lady Coyotes (sixth place, 26 points), Mountainair Lady Mustangs (seventh, 23 points), Gateway Christian Lady Warriors and Cliff Cowgirls (tied for eighth place with 20 points) and Mora Rangerettes and Escalante Lady Lobos (tied for 10th place with 19 points). The Mesa Vista Lady Trojans came in 16th place with eight points, while the Peñasco Lady Panthers finished in 19th place with three points to round out teams from District 5-2A.
Among the boys, the Wildcats improved their team ranking by four spots from last year’s 15th-place finish (nine points), landing at 11th place with 11 total points – all from relay teams. The best yield came from Questa’s 1,600-meter sprint medley team, which earned second place in thrilling fashion – edged by the Fort Sumner Foxes by a mere 14-hundredths of a second at the finish line. Tomas “T.J.” Madrid and John Ortiz ran the two 200-meter segments, Miguel Romero ran the 400-meter portion, while Justin Madrid anchored the team with the final 800-meter leg. The time of 3:50.66 garnered the Wildcats eight points in the mid-afternoon event.
Questa acquired the remaining three points from the boys 4-x-100 (sixth place; one point) and 4-x-200-meter (fifth place; two points) relays. David “Bubba” Trujillo, T.J. Madrid, Romero and Ortiz made up both teams for the Wildcats – although each race was run in a different order.
The Peñasco Lady Panthers attained their points from Carly Gonzales, who finished sixth in both the 1,600 and 3,200-meter runs – earning one point in each event, and Bianca Contreras, who pulled in one point in the pole vault. Gonzales ran a 6:01.78 in the 1,600 and 13:32.64 in the 3,200. Contreras cleared 6 feet, 6 inches to finish in fifth place.
The Peñasco boys team did not acquire any points in their respective events.