Lady Eagles edge Valencia for first place at Ruidoso track meet

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Despite not having one of the biggest rosters around, the Belen High track and field teams are still making their mark on the 2011-12 season.

The Lady Eagles won the first-place trophy at Saturday’s Warrior Invite in Ruidoso, and the BHS boys placed sixth. The Belen teams are hoping to take some momentum from the Class 3A-heavy event when they travel to this week’s 4A-centric Artesia Invite, set to begin at 3 p.m.

News-Bulletin file photo: Brent Robare of Belen, right, tries to stay ahead of a Moriarty runner in a recent meet. The Eagle teams are set to face top Class 4A competition Friday at the Artesia Invite, set for 3 p.m.

“Lots of kids are still improving, and getting PRs (personal records),” said BHS coach Joseph E. Garcia. “It was a nice atmosphere at Ruidoso — up in the mountains — and the kids are seeing more and more that how hard we practice really matters.”

The cold, windy conditions affected times and marks for sure, but for once, Belen had one of the largest teams at a meet. By being able to field relays and place in the distance events, especially on the girls side, BHS managed one of its grittiest performances in a while.

The Lady Eagles topped the nine-team field with 101 points, seven more than second-place Valencia. Only one new BHS state qualifier emerged from the meet — freshman Alexis Begay punched her ticket to state by winning the 100 meters with a time of 12.6 seconds.

“That was definitely the highlight of the day for us,” said BHS girls coach Celina Rivera. “She works very hard, and is in a lot of events, so it is nice to see all the hard work pay off.”

Kaitlyn D’Arcangeli won the 200 meters for Belen, while Celena Orozco was third and Ari Valdez fourth in the 400.

The distance events are where the BHS girls are probably strongest. Even though seniors Amber Saiz and Tayler Hendren were running in their third meet in nine days, and didn’t have superlative times Saturday, they still scored well.

Saiz, who won the 800 meters at the prestigious Sepulveda all-star meet April 9, won that event Saturday, while Hendren was fourth. Hendren won both the 1600 and 3200 as well.

Alisha Montoya-Silva was sixth in the 800, while Kaylyn Gomez was fourth in the 1600. Victoria Cordova was second in the 3200.

The Eagles fielded a team for all four relays, with the 4-by-10 squad taking first place. Natasha Sprunk placed fifth in both the 100 and 300 hurdles.

Keiana Sanchez-Chavez was second in the high jump, and Gabby Mendoza was second in the javelin.

“We had five entries (in each event at Ruidoso), so we used people in events that they are not usually in, but will be in at district time,” said Rivera. “Many of them made the finals. This gave us something to look forward to. And it was nice for the girls to bring home a trophy.”

Sprinter Annie Blair, who missed some time with an illness, competed in two relays.

For the boys, Charles Montoya ran in the 100 meters, where he placed fourth and was in three relays.

“He really stepped up and worked hard,” said Rivera.

Estevan Carrasco was fourth, and Gilbert Espinoza fifth, in the 200 meters. Tyler Valdez, the Belen boys’ only state qualifier so far, won the 800 meters with a time of 2:05.55.

Manuel Guerro was fifth in the 1600 meters. He was also fourth in the 3200, where Brent Robare was fifth.

Cody Thompson was second in the 100 hurdles, with teammate Brian Baldonado sixth, and Thompson was also sixth in the 300 hurdles. The Eagles’ best relay was probably the 4-by-200, which placed second.

Troy Littlefield was third in the pole vault, and Brent Lash was sixth in the long jump. Dustin Downs placed fifth in the javelin.

The boys were without sprinter/jumper Carl Ntiforo for what Garcia termed “different reasons.” He wasn’t sure if the junior will return to the team this year.

The coach is hoping his son, Jared, can qualify for state, especially in the 3200.

The Eagle teams’ final tune-up for the district championships will be the Mayfield Invite, to be held at the Field of Dreams in Las Cruces on Friday, April 27. They lost a day of practice time last week, as a water main issue led to school being let out early, and all practices were cancelled.

“We don’t have quite as many state qualifiers as we would have liked to have had by now,” said Garcia. “But we have had so many improvements. The way we practice is the way we’ll do at meets.”


-- Email the author at jbrooks@news-bulletin.com.