Cross country runners reached national race

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Some of the county’s top cross country runners ran in a national meet Dec. 8 — and they didn’t have to travel far to do it.

News-Bulletin file photo: Gloria Zuni was one of several Valencia County athletes to compete in the USA Track & Field Cross Country Nationals at Balloon Fiesta Park in Albuquerque on Dec. 8. Some of the finishers earned All-American status by placing in the top 25.

Aaron Romero and Arena Lewis, both of whom compete at Belen High, earned All-American honors for placing among the top 25 finishers in their races in the USA Track and Field National Championships, held at Albuquerque’s Balloon Fiesta Park. The races were with qualifiers from all over the U.S.

Lewis placed 21st in the 4K Youth Girls race among 238 finishers with a time of 15:20.93. She’s a freshman at BHS.

Romero, a BHS sophomore, made it to nationals in the Intermediate Boys division. He placed 25th with a time of 17:24.57.

Several other county residents competed at nationals. A few competed with one of the Cougar track clubs, while most were a part of the Valencia team.

On the girls side, a few county runners joined Lewis in the Girls Youth race. Gloria Zuni placed 115th, along with Sophia Sanchez-Maes (173rd), Destinee Vigil (190th), Eve Lovato (207th) and Victoria Abeita (231st).

Only one county athlete competed in the Boys Youth division. Los Lunas eighth-grader Issaiah Abeita placed 166th among 254 finishers.

There were 132 finishers in the 5K Girls Intermediate race. Vivian Lueras placed 90th, followed by Victoria Cordova (99th), Francesca Carbajal (120th), Sabrina Hernandez (123rd) and Shylyn Baca (126th).

Romero’s performance was not the only one from a county runner in the Intermediate Boys race. Jared Garcia was right behind Romero at 26th.

Aaron Thalmamm was 62nd, and Brian Baldonado placed 128th.

Belinda Lucero placed 47th in the Young Women’s division. There were three county runners in the Young Men’s race: John Berry, who placed 56th; Manuel Guerrero, who was 61st; and Jonah King, who was 101st.

The runners qualified for nationals at the smaller USATF Region 16 meet on Nov. 17 at Balloon Fiesta Park. The state that is hosting nationals in a given year splits off into its own region; New Mexico is normally part of Region 10.

All of the Valencia County national qualifiers ran at the Nov, 17 regional. Highlights included Lewis winning her division.

Issaiah Abeita was ninth in Youth Boys, and Thalmann was seventh in Intermediate Boys.

Some divisions were large than others. In some races, every single finisher automatically advanced to nationals.

Lance Lueras, Michael Brown and Emma Montoya are among those who ran at regionals, but not at nationals.

The regional and national meets were set up and staffed by volunteers from Valencia County’s Roadrunner Track Club. High school coaches Larry Padilla, Lynette and Aaron Padilla, and Joe and Georgia Garcia did not coach any of the runners, but assisted with the event.


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