LL girls win at Grants; hope to defend 6-4A title

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

For the Los Lunas girls cross country team to get a team title on the New Mexico State University-Grants course was big on Friday.

The Tigers not only beat four of the other five district teams, but they did so on the course that will host the District 6-4A championships this Friday.

News-Bulletin file photo: Los Lunas eighth-grader Kielee Kinghorn helped her team win the girls team title at last Friday’s Grants Invite. All three county teams return to the Grants course for the District 6-4A championships at 3:30 p.m. this Friday, and the Lady Tigers are hoping to defend their district title.

It was close at the top of the girls standings with Los Lunas posting a score of 94 and Grants finishing second at 95. Miyamura finished third with 128 points.

The Los Lunas boys finished 10th out of 15 teams and fifth of the five district teams at the Grants meet.

“We are optimistic the girls team will qualify for the state meet,” said coach Larry Padilla. “However, there are always surprises at district, and we just hope we will have a good race. Our hope is that everyone will be healthy this week so we can put our best team available at the district meet.”

Los Lunas hopes its one-point win over Grants can be expanded as the Tigers look to defend the 6-4A title that they eked out over Belen last year. Arena Lewis of Belen and the Tigers’ Kendra Lente are among the top challengers for the individual title.

Lente led the Los Lunas effort at Grants, finishing second by just six seconds to Jackie Katman of Bosque with a time of 21:50. Gloria Zuni placed ninth.

Jordan Benavidez pitched in a 15th place finish, Kielee Kinghorn was 24th, Courtney Gutierrez ran 48th and Shelby Kinghorn finished 71st. The Lady Tigers were without injured senior Eliyah Lucero.

“As far as where we stand,” said Padilla in anticipation of the district race, “Valencia is a strong team, and so is Grants. Last year, Belen surprised everyone by qualifying, finishing only one point behind us at district.”

The boys did not have their top runner at the Grants meet as Michael Brown rested a knee injury in preparation for the district meet.

Issaiah Abeita was the top Tiger runner, finishing 34th. Eric Gomez was 50th, Phillip Hammon ran 56th, Patrick Benavidez was 58th and Omar Monge finished 82nd.

“We are hopeful that Michael Brown and Issaiah Abeita will qualify as individuals for state,” said Padilla.

Padilla noted that getting everyone ready to run, and overcoming the bumps and bruises of the season, will be important for both the boys and girls teams.

“Our girls team has some strong runners,” said Padilla. “But as is the case with other teams, we have not consistently run injury-free, so a lot will depend on how everyone feels on Friday.”

The district meet is set to start at 3:30 p.m. Friday on the NMSU-Grants course.

The top three teams qualify for the Class 4A state meet, to be held at Rio Rancho on Saturday, Nov. 10. The top three individual runners from non-qualifying teams, will also advance to the state meet.


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