Eagles excel at LLHS Invitational

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The Belen Eagles boys took second while a trio of county runners finished 1-2-3 on the girls side at the Los Lunas David Allen Invitational at Los Lunas High School Saturday.

The Eagles managed to get four runners in the top 20 to claim second place with 66 points behind District 6-4A rivals Gallup High who won the 10-team boys race with 47 points. Espanola Valley claimed third with 87 points. Host Los Lunas finished eighth with 187 points, and Valencia placed 10th with 210 points.

Kenn Rodriguez News-Bulletin photo: BELEN’s MANUEL GUERRERO (26) sprints down the stretch ahead of Valencia High’s Carlos Caro (36) and Los Lunas’ Nate Candelaria (13) at the Los Lunas David Allen Invitational at Los Lunas High School Saturday morning. Guererro and the Belen boys finished second in the meet behind District 6-4A rivals Gallup.

Belen juniors Jared Garcia and Aaron Valenzuela finished first and second with times of 16:43.48 and 16:44.28 after overtaking the race’s early leader, Gallup’s Alexander Taylor, who finished third with a time of 16:57.29.

“Usually he (Taylor) dies off within the first 800 meters, but today we’d get close to him and he’d throw a surge,” said Garcia. “The last 600 to 700 meters, we just closed in on him and we just took off from there.”

Belen senior Manuel Guererro claimed 19th place with a time of 18:44. 95, holding off Valencia’s Carlos Caro and Los Lunas’ Nate Candelaria, who were their respective schools’ top runners. Caro finished 20th with a time of 18:46.23, narrowly edging Candelaria, who finished with a time of 18:46.87.

Valenzuela said the development of the team’s bottom three runners is key to doing well as district and the upcoming state meet

“I think it helps us ” said Valenzuela. “At practice, we’ve been working to bring the other guys closer to us.”

On the girls side, Belen’s Arena Lewis got out to a quick start and led wire-to-wire, winning the race with a time of 19:22.87. Valencia High’s Camila Orozco and Carisma Lovato finished second and third behind Lewis, finishing with times of 19:47.50 and 20:17.61 to pace the Jaguar girls, who finished fifth in the eight-team race.

“I was expecting Carisma and Camila to try to stay with me for the first part of it but I just kept running my race and tried to build as much of a lead as I could,” Lewis said. “It’s rough when you don’t have someone there next to you. You have to keep pushing.”

Albuquerque’s Sandia Prep claimed first place with 57 points while Valencia and Belen’s district rivals, Gallup High and Grants, took second and third with scores of 71 and 107. Los Lunas finished sixth with 127 points, their best times coming from freshmen Keilee Kinghorn (21:48.09) and Gloria Zuni (22:50.07), who finished 13th and 25th, respectively.

Kenn Rodriguez-News-Bulletin photo: VIVIAN LUERAS of Los Lunas High (1) and Sara Lopez of Valencia High (47) run along with Espanola Valley’s Miranda Varoz at the Los Lunas David Allen Invitational Saturday morning. Lueras and Lopez finished 32nd and 34th in the race.

“I’m so proud of Camila,” said Lovato. “Our times were not our best but I felt as a team she kept us going.”

Belen, Los Lunas and Valencia will all take part in the Rio Rancho Jamboree Saturday morning at Rio Rancho High School in Rio Rancho. The race is a benchmark race for the state’s cross country teams because it is essentially the same course they all will run for the NMAA State Cross Country Championship meet on Saturday, Nov. 9.