Belen boys looking to soar higher in 2013

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Belen High

It was no surprise to coach Joseph E. Garcia when his Belen boys cross-country team took the podium to accept the third-place trophy at the Class 4A State Cross Country meet last November.

JARED GARCIA of Belen High School will be looking to help the Eagles repeat their third-place finish in Class 4A last season.

“What we did at state was expected,” he said. “We’re always shooting for a state title. Third was kind of where we felt we’d fall and it was tough. 4A is a tough division.”

With six lettermen returning, the Eagles appear to be poised to again make a run at the top three of Class 4A in 2013. Maybe even higher, Garcia said

“With the group we have, I think can finish a little better this season,” Garcia said. “That’s what we’re going to shoot for.”

The Eagles squad could include up to 14 boys, depending on how things shake out in the first week of practice. But the core of the team is solid, with senior Manuel Guererro and juniors Jared Garcia and Aaron Romero making up a trio of runners who should lead the Eagles.

“We have a situation where Manuel might be No. 1 one week, then someone else will come in and be No. 1 the next week,” Garcia said. “We have a team that has some depth, so that could changing from time to time. I like what I see on the boys side.”

The challenge now is filling out the varsity roster with a few more strong runners. After that, Garcia said, it’ll be up to the team to develop.

“They’ve just got to learn to run together as a pack,” he said. “We want our kids to run as a pack towards the front of the race. If we can run strong all year and stay healthy that will prepare us to fulfil our goal.”

Valencia High

Despite the program having ups and downs in recent years, Jaguar coach Lynette Padilla said she feels “pretty positive” about her boys squad going into 2013.

“We’ve had strong girls team all these years,” she said, “but on the boys side, we’ve been disjointed. We’re hoping to do some team-building activities to get them to run more as team.”

The young Valencia High squad looked to return five runners from last season, but two seniors didn’t show up for summer workouts. The remaining trio, Padilla said, of seniors Jonah King and Donald Amble and Dakotah Wallace are strong.

Add to that a pair of promising newcomers, junior Gerardo Gutierrez and sophomore Arturo Trujillo and the team could contend for spots at the state meet in November.

“They’re a young team but they had a consistent preseason,” Padilla said. “They’ve been competitive with each other, which is something we’ve missed out on the last couple years.”

With eight solid runners signed up and the possibility of up to 14 total, Padilla said her squad could be a surprise this season.

Los Lunas High

Tigers cross county coach Larry Padilla said his boys squad is thin on numbers, but he is working on improving that.

“We’ve been doing some recruiting and have some kids coming in but it will be eighth-graders or freshmen,” he said. “This year will be a rebuilding year for us. Belen will continue to dominate at this point.”

Of the four returning runners for Los Lunas, Padilla said three freshmen, Issiah Abeyta, Nate Candelaria and Phillip Hannon, are the best hopes for state qualifiers for the Tigers

“Those three boys are going to be pretty strong,” Padilla said. “Nate and Issiah both ran varisty last year. Phillip came in with a new confidence this summer. He really blossomed during the track season last year. Last year these guys showed a lot of potential as eighth- graders.”

How well the Tigers do as a team is reliant on how many more runners can recruit be recruited onto the team, Padilla said.

School of Dreams

In the early years of their program, George Chavez’ School of Dreams squad came up with a self-depreciating nickname. They called themselves the “Tortugas,” Spanish for turtles.

Not exactly the animal you want runners to emulate.

“Now we think a little more of ourselves,” Chavez said with a chuckle, saying the program turned a corner in the last year.

“When we started we couldn’t beat anybody,” he said. “Last year we started to beat some people. This year, we should have two full teams and beat some teams.”

With seven runners potentially this season, Chavez said the core of the group competing in District 3-2A would be three returning juniors, Joseph Orona, Seth Williams and Jose Montoya.

Chavez said the team should be filled out with eighth- and ninth-graders and should continue to get more competitive.

“The boys can beat some teams,” Chavez said. “That’ll be our goal, to consistently beat other teams. Because last year it was just to beat someone. We’re improving slowly,”