Taos athletes soar at Marilyn Sepulveda Meet of Champions, records shattered

Two boys, three girls tapped to attend best-of-the-best track meet at UNM Stadium, Tiger Relays on the horizon


Showing that they not only deserve to be invited to one of the most prestigious track meets of the year in the state of New Mexico, athletes from the Taos Tigers and Lady Tigers track teams proved to themselves and their peers that they are among the very best - in any classification.

A few invited runners and jumpers traveled to University of New Mexico Track and Field Stadium in Albuquerque to compete in the 27th Annual Marilyn Sepulveda Meet of Champions April 16. The gathering offers the state's elite athletes from all six classifications, the opportunity to test their prowess against one another in what's billed as a "one day, one heat, one flight" track meet.

Mainly, the top eight individuals from each event are selected to compete in a single heat with no preliminary races and no team score. There are no relay events at this particular meet and the meet is done in a little more than three hours.

Founded as an all-star event in 1987, the first "Meet of Champions" was inspired by Alamogordo High School track and field coaches, Marilyn and Bob Sepulveda and other coaches who hoped to create an organization dedicated to giving a voice to track and cross-country. The cohort of coaches created the New Mexico Track and Cross-Country Coaches Association July 31, 1987.

Initially limited to senior athletes and scheduled after the state meet in May, the group discovered many problems associated with having an all-star gathering in the summer months - the same time as the other all-star sports such as football, basketball, volleyball, baseball and softball.

Thus, in 1992, the meet was moved to the third weekend in April, and invitations were opened up to underclassmen as well. The yearly competitions have been held at Milne Stadium (1992-1995) or at UNM Stadium (1995-Present).

Leading the charge for Taos was junior Jonah Vigil, who set the all-time record at Sepulveda with a win in the 400-meter dash with a time of 46.99 seconds, shattering the previous record of 48.25 seconds held by Bobby Newcombe from Albuquerque's Highland High School since 1997.

Vigil also competed in the 200-meter dash, where he came in second behind Jordan Byrd of Manzano High School (Albuquerque), with a time of 22.56. He was also entered in the long jump, where he produced a leap of 22 feet, 10 inches to garner the win.

The only other boy invited to the meet was Alejandro Salazar who finished eighth in the 300-meter hurdles with a time of 42.90 and seventh in the triple jump with a distance of 43 feet, 1 inch.

On the girl's side, Faith Powell added nearly a foot to her season-best jump and recorded a distance of 17 feet, 9.75 inches to claim third. She also finished third in the high jump and eighth in the 200-meter dash.

Cora Cannedy came in second in the 3,200-meter run with a time of 12:03.64 - currently the fastest state-qualifying time in Class 4A in this event.

Abigail Gunther made quite a splash by breaking her own personal (and school) record in the pole vault with a new height of 10 feet, 6 inches. The feat tied Gunther and Kiara Quezada from Farmington at the top of all trailing jumpers who were unable to clear 10 feet on the day.

Up next for the five participating athletes will be their annual home track meet. They will join their teammates for the Taos Tiger Relays Saturday (April 21). Though all have qualified for state in various events, the Tiger Relays are yet another chance to showcase their talents and strive for even better times, heights and distances.

The Tiger Relays will begin with field events at 8:30 a.m. and running events at 9 a.m. Cost to enter Anaya Stadium is $5 for adults and $3 for students, seniors and active military personnel.