Eagles shine at LL meet

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By Jason W. Brooks

While the Belen High girls cross country team is still without its top runner, the Eagle boys look healthy, and ready to do at least as much damage as they did last season.

Jason W. Brooks-News-Bulletin photo: Belen’s Lori Espinoza competes in Saturday’s David Allen Invite. The Eagle boys placed second amid a tough field, and all three county teams are set to compete in the Rio Rancho Jamboree this Saturday.

The Belen boys placed second at Saturday’s David Allen Memorial Invite, held at Los Lunas High, behind perennial state-champion contender Los Alamos. Buoyed by the return of junior Dontae Vigil to the lineup, the Eagles posted a team score of 67. Los Alamos posted a near-perfect team score of 16.

The Belen teams are set to compete Saturday in the Rio Rancho Jamboree, which features the same course used for next month’s state championships.

“It’s a cliché, but I really believe that how a team practices is how it will run in a meet,” said BHS coach Joseph E. Garcia. “And the boys really had a good week of practice. The boys look like they’re coming together, and are running strong.”

Aaron Romero led the way for the boys, finishing seventh behind five Los Alamos runners and one from Gallup High, with a time of 17 minutes, 10.73 seconds. Vigil, who missed one meet due to an out-of-town trip and another for an undisclosed reason, made his return at the Allen Invite, placing ninth.

The trio of John Berry, Manuel Guerrero and Jared Garcia stuck together in Saturday’s race, held on the LLHS campus. Berry was 16th, Guerrero was 17th and Garcia was 18th.

All three beat the top Los Lunas High runner, 22nd-place Michael Brown, which Garcia likes. But he added that he would like to see the group run closer to the times and places of Romero and Vigil.

Brian Baldonado was 50th for the BHS boys, while Cameron Robare was 61st. Colton Lewis is practicing off and on, but was still not recovered from an ankle injury enough to compete at Los Lunas

“Our number six and number seven runners need to step it up as well,” said Garcia.

On the girls side, the Lady Eagles were without star Arena Lewis for the third straight week as the freshman recovers from an ankle and knee issue. Garcia said Lewis has been going to a physical therapist, and he was uncertain Monday if Lewis will compete at Rio Rancho.

The Lady Eagles’ top finisher Saturday was senior Alisha Montoya-Silva, who had a time of 22:51.82. Victoria Cordova was 38th, while Lori Espinoza was 54th, Destinee Vigil, was 57th and Shylyn Baca 58th to account for the team score. The Lady Eagles placed 10th among 11 teams.

Tabitha Davis, whose place was not counted toward the team score, was 71st.

“The girls need Arena’s help,” Garcia conceded. “The girls are still learning how to race, but they are doing things like swinging their arms, and pumping their legs when going up a hill.”

After the Rio Rancho Jamboree, the Eagles will compete in the Valley Invite at Albuquerque’s Mariposa Park. Then, it’s on to the Nov. 2 District 6-4A championships, to be held at the New Mexico State University campus in Grants.