Lovato wins, Lady Jags second at Abq. High Invite

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There were no rock bands playing at the Hard Rock Pavilion on Saturday morning. However, there was still some yelling and cheering — and some of it involved one of the county's emerging distance running stars.

Carisma Lovato won the Albuquerque High Invite girls cross country race, and paced her Valencia High team to a second-place finish. On a course run within earshot of the Pavilion, Clovis ended up winning the girls team score title, with 55 points to Valencia's 63.

The VHS boys placed sixth, 20 points behind District 6-4A rival Grants. Both VHS teams are set to compete Friday in the Socorro Stampede, to be held at the New Mexico Tech Golf Course. The girls race is set for about 5:20 p.m., with the boys to follow.

"We're looking forward to Socorro," said VHS coach Lynette Padilla. "The kids have always enjoyed the course, and they tend to run fast. It'll be our first race against some of the big schools, like Cleveland and Los Alamos." Other schools set to compete in the Stampede are 5A squads such as Oñate, Las Cruces High, Mayfield and Rio Rancho. The course consists primarily of dirt roads and grass, and even has a bale of hay or two to leap over, and the first varsity race, the girls', is set for about 5:20 p.m.

At the AHS Invite, Lovato's time of 19 minutes, 54 seconds was about 14 seconds faster than runner-up Kylie Disch of Sandia. Her twin sister, Consuelo, placed 10th, with Corina Baca 12th. Alicia Carbajal's 20th-place effort and Sara Lopez's 24th-place finish accounted for the team score.

Shelby Lucero, who was 40th, and Rachel Baca, who was 45th, also competed. For Lovato, it was the first time the sophomore had won a varsity race.

"We're very proud of Carisma," said Padilla. "And she is happy to have won her first meet. The girls did a great job, despite not having Grace (Vickers) present. They are looking more competitive than perhaps even our 2010 team."

All seven varsity girls set new personal-best times at the meet. Padilla said not only could the No. 2, 3, 4 and 5 finishers switch from week to week, but there are even about four other runners who could fill in on varsity at any time.

"Our girls are determined to keep working hard and determined to keep succeeding," said Padilla. "We really can't ask for more."

The boys were led at the AHS meet by their top runner over the past three seasons: senior Allan Quezada. He placed 18th with a time of 18:12.

The Jaguars only had five boys at the meet. Adam Larson placed 19th, followed by Carlos Caro (32nd), Luis Soto (34th) and Gerardo Gutierrez (41st).

"The boys did a good job," said Padilla. "Of course, it was great seeing Allan in the position we know he can be in (he led the boys race early on), but unfortunately, he couldn't hold it. After the first mile, he started slipping back.

Padilla praised Larson, also a senior, for posting a personal-best time.

"We had all five guys come in under 20 minutes — something they absolutely must do from here on out, but something that didn't get done last year," said the coach. "So we see that as an improvement — and something to build upon."


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