Against a backdrop of heavily forested hills and mountains, brightly colored buses from the Northern Rio Grande (NRG) conference schools lined the parking lot of the Pecos Independent School District.
Nearby, athletes dressed in similarly colored jerseys and attire lined the infield of the Pecos High School track as the schedule of events proceeded at the annual track meet.
Held at different schools on a rotating basis, Pecos was nabbed for this year's historic meet, bringing together the current eight members: Pecos Panthers, McCurdy (Española) Charter Bobcats, Dulce Hawks, Questa Wildcats, Peñasco Panthers, Mora Rangers, Mesa Vista (Ojo Caliente) Trojans and Escalante (Tierra Amarilla) Lobos in attendance. The annual NRG track and field meet is the second of two sporting events the conference hosts during the school year. Every January, the same eight schools gather at Pojoaque Valley High School for the decades old basketball tournament.
The spring competition acts as a predistrict meet for the five 2A teams who all belong to District 5 and a prestate preview for the 3A teams.
The final team scores for the boys were as follows: Pecos (146), Escalante (75), Mesa Vista (67), Mora (45), Questa (42), McCurdy Charter (30), Dulce (26) and Peñasco (12).
Top performers from the Questa Wildcats included Miguel Romero, who placed sixth in the 100-meter dash with a time of 11.81 seconds and fourth in the long jump with a distance of 35 feet, 6 inches.
In the 4x100-meter relay, the team of Isaac Martinez, Miguel Martinez, Gabriel Hernandez and Jonathan Rivera finished fourth with a time of 49.93 seconds. The 4x200-meter relay team was comprised of the same athletes and finished third with a time of 1:41.58. The same four teamed up for the sprint medley relay in which they earned a third place with a time of 4:11.93.
The team of Gerald Cisneros, Tate Danis, Jonathan Sholte and Noah Crider garnered a fourth place in the 4x400-meter relay with a time of 4:33.55.
The Peñasco boys had two standouts on the day. Matt Lopez placed fifth in the 100-meter dash with a time of 11.72 seconds, and Gilbert "Gilly" Valdez came in third in the 1,600-meter run with a time of 5:28.08. Valdez also earned a second place finish in the 3,200-meter run with a time of 10:58.72, a personal best for the rising eighth-grader.
The Lady Cats fared well in the throwing events and chiseled out enough points as a team to grab third place overall.
Claiming this year's championship on the girls side was the Escalante Lady Lobos, who just barely edged out the Pecos Lady Panthers by a half point to win 96.5 to 96. The Questa Lady Cats followed with 64 points and McCurdy came in fourth with 54. Mora held the fifth spot with 49.5 points while Mesa Vista and Dulce tied for sixth with 34 points each. The Peñasco Lady Panthers brought up the rear with 21 points.
Larissa Passino came in first in the discus with a throw of 87 feet, 10 inches and second in the 4-kg shot put with a distance of 29 feet, 7.5 inches - a personal best. Passino was trailed in the discus by teammates, Cherise Trujillo and Sasha Martinez, who finished second and third, respectively. Victoria Trujillo finished in the fifth spot to pump in additional points to the team total in this event alone.
AnnaMarie Sanchez also had a pair of personal best times in the 100 and 200-meter dashes. Sanchez won the 100-meter dash with a time of 13.14 seconds, and finished in second place in the 200 with a time of 29.78 seconds.
As of press time, no individuals or relay teams from either the boys or girls teams have yet to qualify for state. The last chance for individuals and relay teams to make it in to the Class 2A championships will be the district meet coming up in Questa Saturday (April 28).
For Peñasco, the Lady Panthers have two athletes qualified to attend the state meet so far. Distance runner, Carly Gonzales, who is the defending Class 2A state champion in cross-country, has qualified in the 800-meter run (2:37.44), 1,600-meter run (5:32.24) and 3,200-meter run (13:26.75). Maricela MacAuley has also qualified in the 1,600-meter run with a time of 6:01.14.
At the NRG meet, Gonzales came in second in the 3,200-meter run with a time of 13:29.58, and MacAuley was runner-up in the 1,600-meter run with a time of 6:29.37.
The state track and field championships for Class A-3A are slated to take place at UNM Track-Soccer Complex in Albuquerque May 4-5.