BHS runners near head of pack at Jamboree

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Belen juniors Aaron Valenzuela and Jared Garcia finished fourth and seventh in the Boys Championship division while sophomore Arena Lewis finished seventh in the Girls Championship division of the Rio Rancho Jamboree cross country meet Saturday at Rio Rancho High School.

The Jamboree, one of the state’s best meets with a deep, talented pool of competition, is run on the same course used for the State Cross Country championship meet, which takes place on Saturday, Nov. 9.

Valenzuela and Garcia were the top two runners from Class 4A in the Championship meet’s boys division, which included 199 runners and 29 teams from around New Mexico. Valenzuela clocked in at 16:25.82 while Garcia finished with a time of 16:33.63.

The Belen boys finished 11th in the meet, good for second among 4A schools, with a score of 346. The top four spots were dominated by Class 5A schools as host Rio Rancho won the meet with 128 points. Los Alamos was 4A’s top team, finishing fifth with 244 points.

“Jared and Aaron have worked hard all year long and have been pushing each other in meets and at practice,” said Belen coach Joseph E. Garcia. “It’s been one of those things where both of them the have been working really hard.”

Los Lunas finished the meet in 29th place in the Championship bracket with 863 points. Freshman Nate Candelaria was the Tigers’ top finisher in 120th place with a time of 18:44.32.

Coach Larry Padilla praised Candelaria’s performance while pointing out that the Tigers were missing two runners due to soccer commitments and had to run a pair of freshmen, twins Angelo and Anthony Ray.

“They really struggled but they’re coming around,” said Padilla. “We have an extremely young team so we’re just hoping to get them experience.”

On the girls side, Eagle Lewis finished third best in Class 4A and seventh overall with a time of 19:12.31. Keilli Reagan of Albuquerque St. Pius X placed first with a time of 18:49.99.

Class 5A power Albuquerque Eldorado won the girls Championship bracket championship with 60 points. Los Alamos was again the top 4A school, finishing second with 88 points. Belen fielded only three runners total and did not receive a team score in the meet.

As she has in several meets this season, Lewis went straight to the front of the lead pack in Rio Rancho, leading for most of the race.

“In terms of the competition, she did really well, especially among those in 4A,” said Joseph E. Garcia. “She should be in that top 10 at the state meet.”

Valencia finished 13th with a score of 411 and buoyed by top ten finishes from their top running pair – eighth grader Camila Orozco, who finished ninth with a time of 19:25.31, and junior Carisma Lovato, who finished 12th with a time of 19:47.18.

“I thought they did great,” said Valencia coach Lynette Padilla. “Camila, being an eighth-grader did amazing, considering the competition, and Carisma ran a really strong meet. They proved they are contenders in 4A.”

Padilla said the team’s overall goal was to be competitive, which she felt they achieved.

“There were some (top 4A) schools missing but we did well against a lot of schools,” she said. “We feel confident going into the final weeks of the season.”

The Los Lunas girls placed 22 out of 31 teams in the Championship bracket, which included 208 runners.

Freshman Kielee Kinghorn was the Tigers’ top runner, finishing in 62nd place with a time of 21:19.57.

“Kielee did real well,” said LLHS coach Larry Padilla. “She didn’t do too well in the home meet the week before but she did well. Everybody showed improvement from the week before. Vivian (Lueras) came back to being our number two runner and we’ve consistently had her and Gloria (Zuni) up there. So we were happy.”

The Valencia Boys ran in the Varsity bracket of the Jamboree, finishing 10th among 36 teams. Sophomore Arturo Trujillo paced the Jaguars, finishing in 32nd with a time of 18:36.80. 246 boys were entered in the Varsity bracket.

“I think in that division they were able to feel competitive,” said Lynette Padilla. “We had five runners in the top 50 percent, so it was a confidence booster.”