Lady Jaguar harriers are seventh at state

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

On a cold and windy day, the traditional powers in Class 4A cross country ran remarkable races to dominate the 17-team field and deny Valencia its hope of appearing in the top three and bringing home some state hardware.

The Lady Jaguars had three runners finish with season-best times, but it was not enough to crack the top six in terms of team scores.

Mike Stearns-News-Bulletin photo: Running hard is Valencia senior Belinda Lucero in the final mile of Saturday’s Class 4A state championship race held at the Rio Rancho High course. She helped Valencia place seventh as a team in the girls race at the cold and windy event.

Los Alamos posted a team total of 33 points to win its fourth consecutive team title.

Albuquerque Academy was second with a score of 65; St. Pius was third at 72.

Valencia finished in seventh place with a total of 224. Piedra Vista (163), Kirtland Central (185) and Santa Fe (208) finished ahead of the Jags.

Valencia posted the best time of any of the District 6-4A teams, averaging 21:50.84. Grants (241 points) finished eighth with an average of 22:02.40 and Los Lunas (255) averaged 22:12.48 for 10th place.

“I am happy that we caught the other district teams and finished ahead of them,” said Valencia coach Lynette Padilla. “That is a good thing for us, and a good thing for the girls to go home with.”

Jenna Thurman of Del Norte posted the best individual time, running the race at 19 minutes, 2.7 seconds. Carisma Lovato posted the fastest time for the Jaguars, placing 27th by running the 3.1 mile course in 20:53. Grace Vickers was close behind in 30th with a time of 20:58.5.

Consuelo Lovato finished 51st. Corina Baca was 64thth, followed by Sara Lopez (82nd), Belinda Lucero (87th) and Shelby Lucero (98th).

“We had a great start,” Padilla said. “In the first half mile, when we came up the hills, we were in great position. Somewhere in the middle, maybe, we lost some focus. Maybe we lost some desire. That made it hard to kind of pull back up.”

The disappointment then showed with the coach, recalling how she had hoped for a top three finish.

“I wish that I could explain it. I wish there was a rational explanation,” she said.

The coach did note that her two seniors, Vickers and Belinda Lucero, ran their best times of the year at the state championship race. She also said that Shelby Lucero ran an all-time personal best at 24:02.

“Grace did great and has always been very consistent as a runner,” said Padilla. “She is usually our No. 2 runner, and she has been in the top 10 in all of our races. Very consistent. She is amazing as an athlete and even better as a scholar. It has been a privilege to work with her.”

The coach also explained that her other senior, Lucero, had missed most of the year with an injury and had only recently began running again.

“Belinda has had a pretty challenging season overcoming the injury. Her time here was not a bad time, but we know that she has been faster,” Padilla said.

The Valencia coach noted that the team was paced by the contributions of her two seniors.

“It’s been a successful season and I know we’ll miss the contributions of Grace and Belinda next year,” said Padilla. “I am proud of what the girls have accomplished this season. Despite not having met our ultimate goal at state, we’ve grown as a team and the girls have worked hard.”


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