Eagle teams prepping for district meet

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Last season, the Belen High cross country teams were solid, but were sort of like wild cards going into the District 6-4A championships.

After the Eagle boys won the 6-4A team title at last year’s meet, and Los Lunas needed a tiebreaker to edge the Lady Eagles for the girls crown, it was obvious that Belen runners can peak late in the season.

News-Bulletin file photo: Belen’s Destinee Vigil was the second-fastest Lady Eagle at last Friday’s Valley Invite. The Eagle teams are set to compete in the District 6-4A championships, set for 3:30 p.m. Friday in Grants.

Belen’s teams are scheduled to be among the six teams at this year’s district meet, set for 3:30 p.m. Friday at the New Mexico State University-Grants campus. The top three girls and boys teams, along with the top 10 individuals and three next-fastest runners from non-qualifying squads, will all advance to the Nov. 10 state championships.

Last Friday, the Eagle boys showed some of their potential at the Valley Invite in Albuquerque, where they placed third. The Lady Eagles were sixth.

“It’s all about how bad they want it,” said BHS coach Joseph E. Garcia. “Any of our top five boys have a chance of winning the individual district title.”

At the Valley Invite, the Eagle boys were the top non-Class 5A team. Rio Rancho ran away with first place with 24 points, while La Cueva was second with 70 and Belen third with 78.

Leading the way, as he has done most of the season, was Aaron Romero, who placed sixth among 54 finishers with a time of 16 minutes, 18.24 seconds. Dontae Vigil, who missed the previous meet because of a severe illness, was not far behind Romero who was ninth.

Jared Garcia placed 14th, followed by John Berry at 20th, Manuel Guerrero at 29th, Brian Baldonado at 38th and Cameron Robare at 45th.

Coach Garcia said he was surprised Guerrro was so many places behind Berry and Jared Garcia, because the three have often finished close together this season. Guerrro finished about 27 seconds behind Berry.

Garcia said Vigil, the defending 6-4A boys champ, and the rest of the Eagles have held their own against all five other 6-4A boys teams. He pointed out Gallup and Miyamura, two of the key challengers to dethroning the Eagles, finished close together at the recent Rio Rancho Jamboree.

“Gallup and Miyamura could surprise us,” he said.

The coach said on Sunday that it’s possible Colton Lewis, who has missed most of the season with an ankle injury, could compete at district. Each team is allowed to enter nine runners at district, as compared to the usual seven.

On the girls side, freshman Arena Lewis placed second at the Valley Invite, well behind Jenna Thurman of Del Norte. The two could be among the top runners in the Class 4A state championship race.

The other Belen girls to compete Friday were Destinee Vigil, who was 24th; Victoria Cordova (28th), Shylyn Baca (33rd), Lori Espinoza (35th) and Tabitha Davis (41st).

The Lady Eagles’ numbers are down, and they seem unlikely to contend for one of the top three places at district. But after surprises involving Belen and other schools at last year’s district meet, anything seems possible.

Lewis is favored to get her second individual district girls title.

Garcia said each athlete’s focus and self-care is critical this week.

“We have to prepare ourselves,” said Garcia. “After the Valley meet, the boys (and a few of the girls) met by themselves the next morning and went on a long, good-tempo run. We have to continue to be willing to do those kinds of things in order to win championships.”


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