As the sun was setting directly behind the downtown Albuquerque skyline May 5, an orange hue enveloped the Great Friends of UNM Track and Field Complex. It lingered long enough to color photos of the Taos Tigers and Lady Tigers track teams holding their championship banners and trophies atop the wooden podium inside the stadium. Combined with the long black shadows that covered the ground behind the victory formation, it was a fitting testimony to grand 'ol Taos High and a nice gesture from nature as another successful campaign came to a close.
Actually, an entire school year of sports officially came to an end at that moment. And, of all the ways other sports ended throughout their respective seasons, going out on top was a great way for all Northern New Mexico sports to be represented. It was the best way.
Here is a recap of all the spring highlights from our Taos County sports teams.
Taos Tigers and Lady Tigers track
Of the six major sports, two teams emerged as state champions in the end. Both boys and girls track teams reached the pinnacle of their respective crafts by bringing home a state title.
For the first time in four years, the Taos Lady Tigers stood atop the podium with their championship banner and trophy to conclude the 2018 State Track and Field Championships in Albuquerque May 12. The last time the Lady Tigers placed in the top three in the team standings was in 2014 when Taos was considered a Class 3A team and finished in first place with 71 points. This year, coincidentally, Taos earned 71 team points for the crown.
Top individual finishers for the Lady Tigers included: Faith Powell who placed first in the high jump, long jump and triple jump, and took second place in the 200-meter dash. Cora Cannedy garnered two first places in the 1,600 and 3,200-meter runs. Abigail "Abbey" Gunther won the pole vault and placed second in the 300-meter hurdles.
At this year's state meet in Albuquerque, the boys team kept winning events or kept placing athletes in the top six. The final result was a fifth straight team title and another blue trophy for the display case inside the Taos High School vestibule.
Taos held off a blistering attack by the Silver Colts to win the event with the top ten finishers as follows: Taos (81), Silver (75), St. Michael's (54), Portales (46), Robertson (36), Moriarty (34), West Las Vegas (22), Ruidoso (17), Sandia Prep (16) and Hope Christian (16).
Taos standout, Jonah Vigil, toppled a longstanding state mark in the 400-meter dash. The junior recorded a time of 47.01 seconds during preliminaries, shattering the previous time of 48.30 set by Sean King from Oñate High School in 1991.
Vigil repeated the feat during the finals to win the 400, but fell short of surpassing his previous day's time and settled for a time of 47.59 seconds. Vigil also won the 100 and 200-meter dashes and the long jump. His participation in the boys 4x100-meter relay helped propel the team to victory and garnered the phenom an impressive five-for-five in first place finishes.
Two of the boys relay teams also produced first-place finishes, capping another outstanding season.
Combined, Taos has eight state track and field championships over the last six years, with this being the second time the boys and girls swept both divisions (the other happened in 2014).
Taos Tigers baseball
The Taos Tigers' 2018 baseball season came to an abrupt end after a bruising road loss to district foe, St. Michael's, in the opening round of the state baseball tournament May 4-5. The Tigers entered the tournament as the No. 10 seed and had to travel to Santa Fe to play in the best-of-three series against the No. 7 Horsemen. It was the third series meeting of the two teams on the year and the Tigers' fourth straight loss to their district foes.
The Taos Tigers finished the season with an overall record of 15-13 and 7-5 in district play. On the year, Taos scored a total of 184 runs, while yielding 181 and ended the season as the number three team in District 2-4A behind Robertson and St. Mike's.
The Tigers lost five seniors at graduation.
Lady Tigers softball
For the first time in three years, the Taos Lady Tigers softball team was not invited to the state playoffs. The Lady Tigers finished 7-19 overall and 3-9 in district play.
Key victories for the Lady Tigers included early wins against Sandia Prep and Santa Fe High. Taos will lose eight seniors to graduation this year.
Taos Tigers tennis
The boys qualified as a team by receiving a "wild-card" invite due to their strength of schedule and the toughness of their respective district.
Team singles qualifiers for Taos included Jens Krosby, Victor Burns Diaz, Joe Colonius, Keldon Larsen, Robbie Girsten and Ysidro Gravelle. The three doubles teams were comprised of Colonius and Burns Diaz at doubles No. 1, Krosby and Reed Pieper at doubles No. 2, Robbie Wooldridge and Larsen at doubles No. 3. Taos was seeded No. 7 in the eight-team bracket and was pitted against the number two team, Robertson May 4.
Going up against the defending state champs, the Tigers would end up losing 7-2 to the Cardinals in the quarterfinals. Robertson would go on to place second behind the New Mexico Military Institute (NMMI) Colts.
In doubles play, the team of Colonius and Burns won their opening round match over their opponents from Portales, but ultimately fell to a pair of Bosque School Bobcats - the eventual state runners-up May 3. The other doubles team of Gravelle and Wooldridge followed a similar route with a victory in the opening round and a loss in the quarterfinals.
The Tigers did not qualify a boy or girl in singles this year or any girl doubles teams. And for the third consecutive year, Taos did not send a girls team to state.
"Overall, it was a very successful regular season for us," said Coach Kurt Edlebrock, who this year completed his 25th season as the Tigers head coach.
Taos Tiger golf
For the first time in school history, the Taos Tigers have a state champion in golf.
With a fabulous two-day, 36-hole performance by Josh Fambro, an individual state title in the sport has been brought home to Taos. The junior carded a 152 (8 over par) to win the Class A-4A state tournament at the Canyon Club at Four Hills in Albuquerque May 7-8.
Fambro had an outstanding regular season as well. He picked up a total of nine qualifying legs, the most garnered by any boy in class A-4A, during the split schedule that began September 18, 2017. Three legs are necessary to earn an invite to the state tournament, and Fambro picked up his needed share during his first three outings.
Throughout the year and during his qualifying stretch, Fambro's scoring average was a solid 73.1 strokes per match. His personal best round occurred at the New Mexico Highlands University Gene Torres Golf Club in Las Vegas March 19, where he carded a 68 (4 under par). Fambro won three tournaments in 2017-18.
The girls' team had a stellar 2017-18 season, making it to state as a team for the first time in two years. Led by twins sisters, Taylor and Madison Tomashot, the team earned their final qualifying leg at their home tournament at Taos Country Club April 24. While not placing as a team at state, Taylor Tomashot did place 10th with a score of 192 (+25).
Spring sports in Questa ran into a snag early in the start of the new year when word came out that there was a possibility of baseball and track not happening due to budget concerns.
Prior to the official start of spring sports, rumors of an impending cancellation had circulated in the community for several weeks. According to sources within the athletic department, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of their jobs, they were told sports were canceled for the spring on Friday, (Jan. 19).
Then district superintendent David Albert refuted the claim in a phone interview with The Taos News Jan. 20, but questions remained about the fate of the two sports. According to Albert, there was no intention from his office to cancel the spring season. However, he acknowledged a misunderstanding between school personnel and the community at large might have developed due to an expected cash shortfall.
The district held several meetings with community members in late 2017 to gather ideas on saving money and possible avenues to cut or reduce spending. Everything, even sports, was on the table. Baseball and track are the only spring sports in the district, and a text message sent by athletic coordinator Miguel Romero at the time implied that the programs might be in jeopardy and subject to alteration due to the budget cuts.
Ultimately, no activities were cut or altered and spring sports practices began (as if) under a normal guise with more than 45 athletes coming out to participate in the two sports.
"Just imagine if we didn't have this for the kids," said Romero, while a track and field practice and a home baseball game was taking place simultaneously on the Questa High School campus in early April. "So many lives are impacted by sports in this community."
With the green light given for practices to proceed, baseball and track began in earnest Jan. 31. Chris Padilla returned to lead the baseball team for his second year. Padilla was coming off a 12-12 overall record in 2017 and an 11th straight Class 2A state appearance.
The Wildcats fielded a young team and struggled in key positions, including on the mound. Overall, the Wildcats finished with a 8-8 (.500 win percentage) and 4-4 in district play - missing the state tournament for the first time in 12 years. The Wildcats will lose six seniors to graduation.
Lady Cat and Wildcat Track
The Questa Lady Cats track and field team were all smiles at the conclusion of the District 5-2A Qualifier April 28: the pinnacle meet of their 2018 campaign. Held on their home track, the Lady Cats defeated their rivals from Escalante (Tierra Amarilla) 130-119 to take back the league title.
"The district win was a total team effort," said head coach Deluvina Sanchez. "Nearly every girl contributed to the final score."
The top standouts on the year for Questa were Anna Marie Sanchez and Larissa Passino. The two seniors led the Lady Cats in multiple events with victories at the district meet and outstanding showings at state. Sanchez won a district title in the javelin with a personal best throw of 89 feet. She also won the 100-meter dash with a time of 13.24 seconds and was instrumental in helping the Lady Cat's 4x100 and 4x200-meter relays place at state.
Passino placed third at state in the girl's discus with a distance of 92 feet, 11 inches. The senior had been competing in this event for the past three years and hadn't finished in the top-six until this season.
The Lady Cats tied with Jemez Valley for 13th place as a team.
On the boys' side, it was all about the relays. Questa landed its largest haul of points from the 1,600-meter sprint medley team, who placed third with a time of 3:57.23. The team consisted of Isaac Martinez and Gabriel Hernandez, who ran the two 200-meter sprint segments, Miguel Romero, who handled the 400-meter portion, and Derek Vialpando, who anchored the team with the final 800-meter leg.
Questa earned the remaining four points from the 4x200-meter relay team, who placed fourth with a time of 1:39.00. Martinez, Hernandez, Jonathan Rivera and Romero made up the squad that finished squarely in the middle of a cluster of teams who crossed the finish line within one-second of each other.
The Wildcats were led by first-year coach Romero, who took over the program after the departure of Paul Passino. They ended up in 10th place in state as a team.
Peñasco Track and Field
Peñasco track and field also saw a change in leadership with the departure of longtime coach Ben Sanchez. The two thinclad teams were led by first-year coach, Christopher Sanchez, and each witnessed a bit of a down year in total individual state qualifiers.
The Lady Panthers sent a small contingent of runners to state but acquired all their team points from a single athlete. Eighth-grader, Maricela MacAuley, finished third in the 1,600-meter run with a time of 5:51.7, and a second place in the 3,200-meter run, where she recordered a time of 12:51.78.
The Peñasco boys team, made up of only two state qualifiers, each contributed to the five point team total. Matt Lopez provided the biggest surprise of the meet by coming in third overall in the javelin with a personal best throw of 142 feet, 8 inches. Gilbert "Gilly" Valdez pumped in the other point with a sixth-place finish in the 3,200-meter run with a time of 10:25.01, his personal best.
Peñasco Panthers baseball
Baseball in the Peñasco was helmed by Dominic Garcia for the second straight year. The Panthers emerged from District 5-2A in fourth place with a 4-19 overall record and a 2-6 record in district play.
Prospects for the Panthers seem to be better in the coming years with a core of the team slated to return next year.