Eagle boys claim trophy for third place in Class 4A

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If boys cross country teams were judged solely on their performance at the end of the season, the Belen Eagles would be considered one of the most consistent public-school squads in Class 4A.

The Eagles took home their second third-place state trophy in the past three seasons on Saturday. Competing in the Class 4A state championships at Rio Rancho High, the Eagles posted a team score of 122, or 13 points better than the fourth-place team, Piedra Vista.

Jason W. Brooks-News-Bulletin photo: Belen’s Brian Baldonado competes in Saturday’s Class 4A state championships at Rio Rancho High. The Belen boys took the third-place team trophy.

“I have believed in these guys since June,” said BHS coach Joseph E. Garcia. “They pulled together, and I am so proud of them. They deserve this trophy.”

Los Alamos claimed first place, followed by Academy and then Belen. The three teams finished in the exact same order in 2010; Belen placed fifth last season.

Leading the way for the Eagles on Saturday was junior Dontae Vigil, who placed 17th overall with a time of 16 minutes, 59 seconds. Vigil missed a few regular-season meets due to a serious illness and some personal issues, but saved one of his best races for last.

“Dontae ran his race today,” said Garcia.

Coach Garcia’s son, Jared, was the team’s second-best finisher, coming in 22nd. The coach said Jared was battling an illness as little as 48 hours before the race.

While most of this year’s Belen team has been together for a while, Aaron Romero is a sophomore transfer who made a huge impact. He won the District 6-4A title on Nov. 2, and on Saturday, he placed 23rd, about seven seconds behind Garcia, despite being too sick to practice Wednesday or Thursday of last week.

John Berry, the team’s only senior was 34th. Manuel Guerrero rounded out the five-man team score with his 35th-place finish, about one second behind Berry.

Colton Lewis, a junior whose injuries kept him out most of the year, placed 55th, and Brian Baldonado was 61st. Cameron Robare, who ran with the varsity much of the season in place of Lewis, was an alternate Saturday, but didn’t compete.

Berry, who plans to attend the University of New Mexico next year, smiled when it was pointed out the Eagles finished third behind Los Alamos and Academy.

“We’ve got no regrets,” said Berry. “We feel like we competed with the best in the state, out of all classes. It feels great.”

Coach Garcia praised Berry’s leadership skills as a team captain.

The Belen girls team didn’t have any state qualifiers. Freshman Arena Lewis, who placed third at state last year, went off the course at the district meet, where she ended up placing 47th.

Garcia said that if his young team can keep improving, the idea of challenging for one of the top two spots in 4A is not far out of reach.

“For these guys to get two trophies in three years, is incredible,” said Garcia. “There’s a chance they can get even better.”


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