Lady Tigers are third at their tough home meet

........................................................................................................................................................................................

While the Los Lunas High girls cross country team has been among the top finishers at all six of this season's meets, the competition level has varied.

The Lady Tigers placed third at Saturday's David Allen Memorial Invite, held at Los Lunas High, and the two teams that beat them are formidable. The Tiger boys placed 10th among 13 teams.

The Los Lunas teams are set to compete Saturday in the Rio Rancho Jamboree, which uses the same course that will be the venue for next month's state championships.

The Los Lunas girls got a few pleasant surprised in their home meet that have helped them perform well. The Lady Tigers' team score of 117 placed them behind perennial Class 4A contender Los Alamos, which had 20 points, and Santa Fe Indian School, a tough 3A team that had 102.

Both Los Alamos and Santa Fe Indian are new to LLHS coach Larry Padilla's meet, which had one of its biggest, toughest fields ever.

"We didn't have Gloria (Zuni), and we didn't have Shannae (Williams)," said LLHS. "Jordan (Benavidez) was one of pleasant surprises."

Lady Tiger senior Kendra Lente placed seventh among 74 girls finishers with a time of 20 minutes, 49.95 seconds. The team's second finisher was Kinghorn, who was 16th and has kind of been a surprise all year as an eighth-grader.

Benavidez placed 22nd. The senior didn't practice with the team in the summer and only recently cracked the varsity lineup.

Another senior, Eliyah Lucero, was the girls' fourth finisher at 24th. Eve Lovato, who was 48th, was the final girl to be a part of the LLHS team score. Vivian Lueras (60th) and Courtney Gutierrez (70th) also competed.

Padilla has had strong pack times for the Lady Tigers in some meets, but having Zuni and Williams out seemed to lead to an off-week in that category. Kinghorn will miss the Rio Rancho meet.

For the Tiger boys, Michael Brown took advantage of what will be his last competitive meet on his home course. The senior placed 22nd among 86 finishers Saturday with a time of 18:21.74.

"The first objective in New Mexico cross country is to prepare for district," said Padilla. "Michael is shooting for a top-10 finish at district, which would get him into the state meet, and among district (6-4A) kids at our meet, I think he was eighth."

Issaiah Abeita and Nate Candelaria continue to impress Padilla. The eighth-graders placed 41st and 48th, respectively.

"We know that we're asking them to not run like eighth-graders," said Padilla. "We're asking them to step up and run like big boys."

Eric Gomez placed 56th for the Tiger boys, while Phillip Hammon was 58th, Omar Mongar,was 75th and Jose Lucero was 76th.

After the Rio Rancho Jamboree, the Tiger teams will compete in the Grants Invite at the New Mexico State University campus in Grants. The Nov. 2 District 6-4A championships will also be held on that Grants course.

Padilla's concerns about the Grants course are not only two large hills that many runners do not usually face, but also the rocks on some of the trails.

"We're always worried about the injury potential there," he said.


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