Los Lunas Track Invite marks first appearances for county teams


The Valencia girls track team had a strong showing in the cold and windy conditions at the Los Lunas Invitational on Saturday.

The meet was dominated by teams from the south as Mayfield, 71 points, won the boys title, and Oñate, 80.5, won the girls title.

Mike Stearns-News-Bulletin photo: Clearing the hurdle is Los Lunas eighth-grader Shawn Kelly Romero during the Los Lunas Invite track meet on Saturday. Los Lunas’ Hector Ayala, center, and Belen’s Dominic Rivera, right, try to keep pace with the Tiger speedster. All three county schools will be a part of the Jim Burke Invitational at Belen, beginning at 9 a.m. on Saturday.

On the girls side, Valencia placed third with 62.5 points, Belen was seventh (24) and Los Lunas (20) came in eighth.

For the boys, the highest county team in the scoring was Belen at fifth with 49 points. Los Lunas finished seventh with 43 and Valencia was eighth, scoring 31.

“One thing I found very unusual,” said host Los Lunas coach Larry Padilla, “I think this is the fewest number of qualifiers I have ever seen at our meet. There was not one relay team that qualified. I think the weather really affected everyone’s performance.”

All three county schools will compete in the Jim Burke Invitational, which will be held in Belen at 9 a.m. on Saturday.

“It will be a big meet,” said Belen coach Joe Garcia. “We will have 10 teams out and we are ready for it. Hopefully, we will have a good week of weather.”

Valencia Girls

The Jaguars used some strong performances in the middle distances and field events to post a third place finish.

“I thought the girls would do well, but third place overall was a tremendous showing for our first meet,” said first-year coach Aaron Padilla. “We were missing a lot of girls just like every other team out there, so it will be exciting to see what we can do when we have a complete team in the next couple of weeks.”

Padilla was especially pleased with senior Kaitlynn Craig, who placed second in the pole vault and long jump. She won the 300 meter hurdles and was a part of the third-place 1,600 meter relay. She scored 24 of the team’s total points.

“Anytime a track athlete is in the 20s, you know you have something special,” said Padilla. “Kaitlynn has dedicated many years to this sport and has always worked hard, so it’s nice to see her succeed like this. She has been a great leader by example this season to the younger athletes.”

Grace Vickers finished second in the 3,200 meters and fourth in the 1,600 meters.

Kristen Traynham was impressive in her first meet as a freshman. She was fourth in the triple jump, fifth in the 200 meters and part of the 1,600-meter sprint medley that finished third.

Carisma Lovato won the 400 meters and 800 meters. She was on the third-place medley team.

“Overall I think the girls displayed a lot of heart and toughness on such a cold and windy day,” Padilla said.

Los Lunas Girls

Alexis Lafave highlighted the Lady Tigers’ performance by winning the 200 meters and a second-place finish in the 100 meters. She was also fifth in the long jump.

Kendra Lente was fifth in the 1,600 meters and Kielee Kinghorn was sixth in the 400 meters.

The 4-by-100 relay team, anchored by Lafave, finished fifth. Merissa Begay, Kayla Romero and Kristie Sandoval made up the rest of the relay team.

Belen Girls

Belen scored their team points with placement in three relay events and some strong showings in the field events.

The 4-by-100 relay team finished sixth, as did the 4-by-200 and 4-by-400 relay teams.

Gabrielle Mendoza and Tessa Marquez both scored in the javelin throw, with Marquez finishing sixth and Mendoza taking second. Mendoza also placed second in the shot put.

Belen Boys

Coach Garcia was happy with the performance of a couple of first-year sprinters.

Xavy Armijo ran well in the 100 and 200 meters, as did newcomer Nick Garcia.

“Xavy did well in the 100 meters. For his first year out, he is learning and so is Nick Garcia,” said coach Garcia.

Tyler Valdez won the 1,600 meters, and Joseph Lash was fourth in the 200 meters.

“I am pretty pleased on how all of the boys did,” said Garcia. “We are really low on numbers and we have a lot of young kids. What we asked them to do, they went out, and with the bad weather conditions, did very well.”

Los Lunas Boys

Expected to do well in the sprints, it was the field events that really carried the Tigers in the first meet.

Greg Wortman finished second in the javelin in his first time competing in the event.

Brandon Brown was fifth in the 200 meters and second in the triple jump.

“We did have some great moments this meet, I was really impressed with all of our relays and our field events,” said coach James Harmon. “Last year at this same meet we scored 18.5 points and this year we scored 43. So, that’s some good improvement.”

Michael Brown took fourth in the 800 meters.

“A lot of teams in our district are really good at distance running, so I would like more fight and competitiveness from those runners of ours,” said Harmon. “That will come though because those guys are working really hard during practice.”

Harmon noted that the team is still missing a few competitors due to the Tiger basketball team being in the state tournament.

“We are missing four or five basketball players as of right now,” said Harmon. “We are looking forward to when they can come out with us, but we’re cheering them on to the Pit.”

Valencia Boys

Coach Wesley Rogers is hard to impress, but what he saw from sophomore Josh Burbank blew him away.

Burbank finished first in the 100 meters with an incredible 11 second flat time.

“Josh Burbank was obviously a man amongst boys. He has a real shot of doing something at state,” said Rogers. “I have had guys run 10.7 seconds. None of them could hold a candle to what Josh did.”

He noted that most of those runners posted times around the 11.7 or 11.8 range in their first meets of the year.

“You are only talking about four-tenths of a second to get the state record,” said Rogers of Burbank’s time in the windy conditions.

Burbank won the 200 meters with a time of 22.74 seconds, and Rogers said that if he could get the speedster to run the 400, he felt certain that he would qualify at state in that event, also.

Cody Robinson won the 400 meter run with a time of 54.1 seconds.

“My expectations are a little different. It is a complete rebuild on our end,” said Rogers. “We lost half the points we scored last year. I just wanted to see improvement from our practice times.”

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