LL girls, Brown end season with strong effort

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

Even though the Los Lunas High girls cross country teams didn’t place quite as well as it could have at Saturday’s Class 4A state championships at Rio Rancho High, their coach still seemed pleased with how the season went.

The Lady Tigers placed 10th as a team at state with a score of 255, between Del Norte and Aztec. The Tigers were hoping for a little more, but a few of the LLHS runners didn’t have their best race in the cold, windy conditions — and veteran Los Lunas coach Larry Padilla did not really find fault with them.

Mike Stearns-News-Bulletin photo: Los Lunas senior Kendra Lente, who slightly trails Valencia’s Grace Vickers in the final mile, finished 25th in Saturday’s Class 4A state championships at Rio Rancho High. The Lady Tigers placed 10th as a team, while Michael Brown was 56th in the boys race.

Michael Brown, the only LLHS boy to qualify for state, placed 56th in his race.

“I’d say that we’re a little disappointed we didn’t finish higher,” said Padilla, the Tiger cross country coach for the past 20 years. “But with as crazy as the state race can be, and with all that’s happened with our seniors and what they’ve done for the program, we aren’t going to base everything on whether we get a top-three trophy or not.”

Senior Kendra Lente, a five-time state qualifier, placed 25th overall with a time of 20 minutes, 48.3 seconds. However, the next finisher was fellow senior Eliyah Lucero, who was 62nd in the 135-finisher field.

With the strained look on Lucero’s face as she lumbered across the finish line, coupled with the aches and injuries she’s seen in her five years as a Tiger, it seemed the senior was doing absolutely all she could.

“We’ve always stressed doing well at district meets,” said Padilla. “Normally, Eliyah is within five or 10 seconds of Kendra, but it’s so tough to have every single runner on top of their game at state.”

Jordan Benavidez, another senior, was the Lady Tigers’ third finisher, placing 66th. Eighth-grader Kielee Kinghorn placed 67th, and and the final runner to be a part of the team score, Shannae Williams, placed 68th.

Sophomore Vivian Lueras was 72nd. Eighth-grader Gloria Zuni, who had been one of the team’s better runners at some meets this season, struggled, and placed 77th.

Brown finally qualified for state at this year’s district meet, and at state, he beat two of the St. Pius runners and a number of District 6-4A competitors. He finished right behind Colton Lewis of Belen.

The senior, a four-year letterman in cross country, plans to join the LLHS swim team to stay in shape, and is looking forward to running distance events and relays during track season.

“Everyone is really excited for Michael,” said Padilla, who should have a few promising returners on the boys side. “He’s been around for so long. He finished in the top half of the field, so we’re happy.”


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