College Corner: Men’s Cross Country

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Valencia County continues to be represented in men’s collegiate cross country by competitive athletes. Here is a recap of some of their 2012 fall highlights.

Photo by Carvella Lueras: Junior Justin Lueras helped his New Mexico Highlands University men’s cross country team reach the NCAA Division II regionals in November. The Los Lunas High graduate was joined at Highlands this fall by former Belen High runner Stephen Carbajal, who made an immediate impact.

Patrick Lueras, Eastern N.M.

Lueras wrapped up his senior year at Eastern by helping the Division II Greyhounds to some postseason success.

The 2009 Los Lunas High graduate was the fifth Greyhound to cross the finish line at nationals on Nov. 17 in Joplin, Mo. His time of 32:43.9 in the 10K race placed him 191st; Eastern was led by senior Isaiah Samoei, who placed eighth at nationals to earn All-American status.

Lueras was the Greyhounds’ fifth-best finisher in helping the team win its second-consecutive Lone Star Conference title, and the history major was the fourth-fastest ENMU runner when the squad placed second at regionals.

Lueras finished 13th in Class 5A at the New Mexico high school state championships in 2008 as a LLHS senior. He is a History Secondary Licensure major with a minor in English, and is set to graduate in the spring of 2014.

Stephen Carbajal, N.M. Highlands

After a Belen High career that included a District 6-4A title and a sixth-place, All-State finish as an Eagle cross country senior in 2010, the then-homeschooler is in his first year after high school before enrolling at Highlands.

Carbajal, who also placed as high as third at state in the 3,200 meters in track and field, used the 2011-12 school year to attend firefighter-related schooling. However, he also trained for both the 2011 Duke City Marathon and the 2012 Run for the Zoo on May 6, so he was pushing himself as a runner before he arrived at Highlands.

Carbajal made an immediate impact as a freshman. He finished in the top five at virtually all of the Cowboys’ races this fall, and was frequently the second finisher, behind national qualifier and Highland senior standout Ismael Samano.

The former Eagle placed 32nd at the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference meet in Colorado Springs on Oct. 20, helping the Cowboys tie for fifth and advance to regionals. Carbajal placed 39th at regionals in the 10K race, with the Cowboys placing ninth among 27 teams.

Next year, Carbajal wants to help the Cowboys go to the next level. The team was only three spots away from advancing beyond regionals and on to nationals.

“I was glad to contribute, but I really want to help us work as a team more,” said Carbajal, who is still volunteering at the Abeytas Fire Dept. when he can. “I just couldn’t pass up the chance to do college running — I wanted to make sure I had no regrets.”

Justin Lueras, N.M. Highlands

The Highlands junior was the fourth-best finisher at the conference meet, placing 44th overall in the 8K race.

The 2010 Los Lunas High graduate was among the top four finishers for the Cowboys in two races in 2012. Lueras was a standout during his LLHS days, winning the District 5-5A title his senior year.

Lueras has one more season of cross country eligibility. He is majoring in Forestry with a minor in business, and is set to graduate in spring 2015.

Jonah Ruybalid, N.M. State

The 2009 Los Lunas High graduate wrapped up his collegiate cross country career as the second-fastest Aggie at the Mountain Region race, held in Fort Collins, Colo., on Nov. 9. The Aggie men placed 15th at the race. The Aggies didn’t make regionals as a team, but Ruybalid and other Aggie runners advanced at the Western Athletic Conference Championships in Ruston, La., on Oct. 27.

At the conference meet, Ruybalid was named to the second team All-WAC when he finished first for the Aggies and 10th overall with a time of 24:52.28 in the 8K race.

Both Jonah Ruybalid, known for his sunglasses, and older brother Ian, were standouts in Class 5A when competing for Los Lunas High. He is a civil engineering major, on track to graduate in the December 2013.

Ian Ruybalid, N.M. State

The senior wrapped up his Aggie career with a 155th-place finish at regionals, making him the fourth-best NMSU finisher that day. He finished fifth for the Aggies and 28th overall at conference with a time of 25:29.44.

Ruybalid earned a degree from NMSU in December.

He plans to enter the physical therapy field, and would like to do some assistant coaching of runners, if time allows.

(Editor’s note: Other college runners from this area will be featured in upcoming College Corners. If you know a Valencia County athlete who is competing interscholastically at the college level, send information to jbrooks@news-bulletin.com.)


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