Tigers shine at namesake relays, crush competition in lead up to final week


Four boys, four girls and four relay teams from Taos either qualified for the first time this year or improved their current qualifying times or distances with stellar performances at this year's Taos Tiger Relays held at Anaya Stadium April 21. Under temperate conditions and blue spring skies, the annual track and field competition gave high school athletes of varying levels the chance to test their running, jumping or throwing abilities against a slate of regional opponents.

The Tiger Relays is a unique meet that provides unlimited heats for all athletes entered in each respective event. This gives visiting schools the opportunity for all members of their rosters to compete - no matter their skill level. At many varsity meets, each running event will have no more than three heats or will limit schools to only three athletes per event.

The heat sheets, the infield and the bleachers were all densely packed, a testament to the popularity of this track meet.

In attendance this year were the St. Michael's Horsemen, Española Valley Sundevils, Raton Tigers, Pojoaque Valley Elks, Robertson Cardinals, Shiprock Chieftains, Clayton Yellowjackets and Taos Tigers.

The usual cast of characters from both Tiger squads laced up their best Saturday shoes and put on a good show for the fans in attendance. The boys grabbed the top spot on the podium with 156.5 team points, eclipsing the second place team, St. Mike's, by 35 points. Similarly, the girls gobbled up victories and top-five places in several events to earn a score of 176. The next closest contender was Shiprock, who garnered an 89.

Jonah Vigil defended his 100-meter dash title from 2017, crossing the finish line with a time of 10.89 seconds. Vigil also won the 200-meter dash with a time of 21.57 seconds, improving his fastest time, and inching ever closer to the state record of 21.20 seconds currently owned by James Hillard from Lovington (set in 1984).

John Olivas, who has been relatively quiet thus far in 2018, had a breakout weekend and qualified in three events to augment his standing in the long jump. Olivas cleared 6 feet, 2 inches to win the high jump, came in second in the 200-meter dash with a time of 23.01 seconds and third in the 100-meter with a time of 11.34 seconds.

Other boys turning in outstanding performances at the Relays included Justin Madrid, who earned the top spot in the 800-meter run with a time of 2:08.53, and Alejandro Salazar, who won the triple jump with a distance of 40 feet, 4.5 inches, and John Esquibel and Abdul Khweis, who came in first and second, respectively, in the 400-meter dash - qualifying for state in the process.

On the girls' side, Cora Cannedy claimed victory in the 1,600-meter run with a time of 5:37.59 while Ella Katz outkicked the competition and won the 3,200-meter run with a state qualifying time of 12:24.27. Katz was joined by Erin Manchester-Jones who came in sixth and also qualified for state with a time of 12:36.21.

Abigail Gunther continued to improve in the 300-meter hurdles, posting a new best time of 47.48 seconds in the win. Gunther also won the pole vault by clearing 10 feet, 6 inches. Faith Powell maintained her standing in her staple events, winning the high jump and triple jump.

The boys' 1,600-meter sprint medley relay team also recorded its best time of the 2018 season with a time of 3:44.27 - a four-second improvement that boosted the team to first in Class 4A. The girls improved as well in the 4x100, 4x200 and 1,600-meter sprint medley relays.

Up next for the Tigers and Lady Tigers is the Valencia Invitational in Los Lunas Friday (April 27). This will be the final meet of the season before the district meet, which will be held at Robertson (Las Vegas) High School May 4-5. The state championship for the larger schools, which include class 4A, 5A and 6A, will be held at the UNM Track and Field Complex May 11-12.