Lady Tigers runners exceed expectations, edged only by 6A Cleveland

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In a wild follow-up to the Río Rancho Jamboree, the Taos Tigers cross-country teams traveled south to participate in the Los Alamos Invitational Oct. 20. In what is sure to become the precursor to future state championships in Class 4A when realignment occurs next year, Taos showed it belongs among the best teams in the state as its runners conquered the 3-mile course and served notice of their worthiness among soon-to-be foes.

In attendance were the usual teams, including: Sue Cleveland High School, Albuquerque Academy, Los Alamos High School, Hope Christian, Santa Fe Indian School, Pecos, Pojoaque Valley, St. Michael’s, St. Pius X, Bernalillo, Santa Fe High School and Taos.

With far fewer participants than the Río Rancho Jamboree and with the broad running lanes of the Los Alamos County Golf Course, the pace was blistering as runners fanned out quickly, creating gaps that were difficult to close.

“The girls just keep exceeding expectations,” said Taos coach Bruce Gomez, alluding to his young runners, who seem oblivious to the storied programs they’re competing against. “Every week, someone new steps up and surprises us coaches.”

On the girls side, 82 runners made up the field in the varsity group. Cora Cannedy ran another outstanding race and came in second place overall with a time of 19:32.19 behind Amanda Mayoral – the top female runner in the state – who came in first with a time of 18:38.07.

Coming in second for Taos and sixth overall was Erin Manchester-Jones with a time of 20:18.79. Ella Katz followed with a ninth-place finish with a time of 20:45.38. Alyx Mastor was just a few steps behind Katz, placing 10th overall with a time of 20:47.96. Kelly Tonrey was Taos’ fifth runner, coming in 25th place with a time of 21:39.49.

As a team, the Lady Tigers placed second with 51 points – just three points behind Sue Cleveland High School, which finished with 48. Albuquerque Academy was third with 60 points, the Los Alamos Lady Hilltoppers were fourth with 75 points and Hope Christian rounded out the top five with 148 points.

“Our boys are peaking at the right time as well,” said Gomez. “We’re knocking on the door and we may just catch those top teams who are not expecting us to be a threat.”

The boys placed seventh as a team with 217 points. Eddie Duran continued his streak as the top runner for the Tigers with a 34th-place finish with a time of 18:21.86, followed by Zack Trujillo, who came in 36th with a time of 18:31.99. Lance Miller was Taos’ third runner, coming in 44th overall with a time of 19:11.04. He was trailed by Sam Hastings, who was 51st with a time of 19:29.58, and Pablo Archuleta, who came in 52nd with a time of 19:34.35.

“While they may or may not be in our district next year, we’re probably going to see some of these teams at the state meet,” said Gomez, who has seen this shift before in his long career as head cross-country coach. “It will be a tough field.”

In the name of parity and often due to geography, realignment of New Mexico Activities Association schools and their respective sports teams occur every two years.

A proposal to move from districts to conferences and eliminate one classification was discussed in NMAA meetings earlier this year. And, although the NMAA board of directors voted to keep its current format with districts rather than moving to conferences during a meeting June 2, the NMAA will eliminate the top division and move to just five classifications – except for football, which will have seven classes next year.

For all other sports, schools with 1,300-plus students will compete in 5A. Schools with 550-1,299 students will compete in 4A. Class 3A will be made up of schools with 235-549 students, while schools with 100-234 will compete in Class 2A. Class 1A will consist of schools with fewer than 100 students.

This means that Taos High School, with approximately 750 students enrolled, may join schools such as Los Alamos (approximate enrollment of 1,100), Española Valley (approximate enrollment of 1,240), Albuquerque Academy (approximate enrollment of 1,220) and St. Pius X (approximate enrollment of 925), which will drop down a class. St. Michael’s High School and Pojoaque Valley will likely stay in Class 4A. However, Robertson (Las Vegas) and West Las Vegas will drop down to Class 3A, as each school shows student enrollment numbers that do not top 500.

Classification and district realignment will be set this fall when 40-day enrollment numbers for the 2017-18 school year become available. At that point, this year’s numbers will be included in the three-year averages and schools will then be placed in their proper classification.

The Tigers and Lady Tigers travel to Santa Fe for the District 2-4A meet slated to take place Oct. 27 at the City of Santa Fe Municipal Recreation Complex at 205 Caja del Río Road. The girls race will begin at 3:30 p.m. and the boys race will begin at 4:15 p.m.

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