Birthday wishes, first-ever titles granted at NM state cross country meet

By Nicole Baker
Special to the Navajo Times

RIO RANCHO, NM, November 15, 2012

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(Times photo – Paul Natonabah)

TOP: Shiprock's Cassandra Peters (377) came from behind and took eighth place at the New Mexico Class 3A state cross-country meet. She finished ahead of Wingate's Karianne Peter (455) and Thoreau's Avery Sanders (421) as all three runners placed in the top ten at Rio Rancho High on Nov. 10.

SECOND FROM TOP: Rehoboth's Jordan Ide (311) and Navajo Prep's Annoesika Laughlin (268) keep up with the pack near the two-mile markers in the girls Class 2A state cross-country championships at Rio Rancho High on Nov 10. Laughlin finished the race in fifth place while Ide copped 10th place honors.

T he birthday girls got their wish.

Saturday at Rio Rancho High during the New Mexico state cross country meet, the Navajo Prep Lady Eagles and Shiprock Lady Chieftains granted the birthday wishes of three teammates – state titles.

"This is the best birthday gift ever," said Lady Chieftain Shania Harry, who celebrated her actual birthday on Saturday when Shiprock took the girls Class 3A state cross country title.

Harry got to share the celebration as well with teammate Cassandra Peters, whose birthday was Sunday.

"At this point it hasn't fully hit me yet. It's a great feeling to have – to win state," Harry added.

The Lady Eagles also couldn't have given senior and birthday girl, Delta Higden, a better birthday present or sendoff either as the team earned the girls Class 2A state title.

"I'm really happy for my team, and I'm really proud of each and every one of them for pushing and encouraging me through this year," said a tearful Higden. "My ten years of running and this is all I ever wanted and I'm really happy it's with my Prep Eagles family."

Lady Eagle snatch 2A title

"Wow! That's all I can say. Wow," said Navajo Prep coach Stephanie McDonald. "It was these girls. This is their team. This is their school. It's them all the way.

"I was here to guide them and tell them what to do and give them the workouts, but it was the girls that did it. The boys took third today, too. They all ran well. They came to run and they did it. Wow!"

It was a tight contest at the top as the Lady Eagles (63) edged out East Mountain High School (73) and Rehoboth Christian was a close third with 78 points.

If the team title was close, the individual race was even closer as the top five runners continually changed places and going through the soccer field, Lady Eagle junior Muriel Waukazoo had the advantage.

But Pecos' Cassandra C. De Baca, who moved up throughout the final mile, caught Waukazoo coming into the stadium, kicking it in to win the state title with a time of 20:04.45.

"It was hard at first but then I noticed the other girls were slowing down and I still had my kick in me," said De Baca. "Entering the gate I made my move. I didn't know I had the state title until the end of the race when I finished and heard everyone cheering."

Waukazoo took second in 20:10.30.

"I was just trying my best to stay in front the last mile," said Waukazoo. "I was just trying to keep my stride and control my breathing. I wasn't expecting to get second at all. I'm really happy.

"I'm so proud of my team. It doesn't matter if we get first. It feels like we did our best," Waukazoo added.

That best was more than enough for a state title.

"The girls have been coming in second the past two years and I told them, 'I am hungry. I want this,'" said McDonald. "I think, though, that they wanted it much more than I did."

On the boys' side in Class 2A, the Eagles earned their first state trophy in cross country placing third behind state champion Laguna Acoma and runner-up Zuni High School.

The Eagles were led by Leandrew Daily who finished seventh overall with a time of 16:54.50 and teammate David Wauneka in 12th at 17:30.85.

Mora's Alonzo Chavez took top honors on the boys' side, winning the individual state title with a time of 16:01.55. It is also the first cross country title for the school.

"I noticed that during the Jamboree, that whenever I was hurting, that's when everyone else would be hurting, so today, the spot where I was hurting the most were the spots where I pushed it the most," said Chavez. "This feels good. Like I accomplished a lot."

Following right behind Chavez was Laguna Acoma. Laguna's Patrick Keyope was second at 16:35.45, followed by teammates Jacob Riley in third at 16:40.10, Cameron Riley in fifth at 16:49.40, Isaiah Kelsy in eighth at 16:55.30 and Christopher Salvado in 10th at 17:08.30 as Laguna finished with all five scorers in the top 10. Zuni's McKenz Leekya took fourth overall with a time of 16:49.20.

Lady Chieftains edge Sandia Prep for title

For a young Lady Chieftains cross country team that brought up two eighth graders, walking away Saturday with the girls Class 3A state title was a huge accomplishment.

"It's really unreal," said Lady Chieftains coach Alice Kinlichee. "We started out with one runner returning on our team. To come from not scoring our first meet of the season, we just kept getting better and better.

"These are rookies who have never been to the state meet, except one. I didn't know what to expect. I didn't put any pressure on them. I just told them to do the best they could. They just had to get out there with the mindset of winning. They just had to get out and do it."

Led by freshman Cassandra Peters, also a birthday girl, who finished eighth overall with a time of 20:28.20, the Lady Chieftains edged out Sandia Prep by four points, 82 to 86. Helping Shiprock was junior returner Shania Harry, eighth grader Melanie Secody in 21:02.90 (16) and Megan Johnson in 21:08.85 (18).

Sandia Prep's Rachel Fleddermann won the individual title in 19:21.15.

"I just kept going. I knew I had to keep up my pace," said Fleddermann. "When I came out on the pavement from the soccer field I was like, 'Alright, here we go.' It feels really great to be state champion."

Shiprock's Williams takes second in 3A

Shiprock senior Eric Williams said he couldn't have asked for a better way to wind up his career for the Chieftains than taking second at state.

"The race started off really fast," Williams said. "I thought, 'I'm on my last race,' so I just took off flying as fast as I could (to get ahead of the other runners).

"I got tired but once I hit the soccer field, I took off, head down and started striding my legs. I heard everyone, 'He's right behind you,' so I kept picking it up. I wanted to leave everything out there and I did."

Pojoaque successfully defended its boys scoring 60 points ahead of runner-up St. Mike's at 93.

Jereme Santistevan led Pojoaque with a time of 16:30.80, winning the state title as well.

"All season I've been working for this," Santistevan said. I just pulled away on the soccer field and gave it all I could. I went out strong and just kept it."

4A: PV's Levi earns runner-up honors

"I just wanted to give it my all," said Piedra Vista senior Brandon Levi. Levi was the state runner-up in Class 4A with a time of 16:14.40.

"It's my last year. I just wanted to finish strong and I did. To be honest, I've always wanted to be state champion but second place feels like it's two times better…I was like, 'You have to push it harder, this is your last race.' I ended up coming through."

Teammate Harrison Fleming was 13th overall as well with a time of 16:48.40 to help the Panthers finish in fourth overall as a team.

Los Alamos' Nick Hill led Los Alamos to successfully defend their Class 4A state title with the most dominating team performance of the state meet. Los Alamos landed all five scoring runners in the top 8 with 22 points. Hill also took home the individual title in 15:59.65.

"It just felt really good from the beginning," said Hill. "I was out in front and wanted to stay there. Being state champion is amazing. It's the greatest thing ever."

The Lady Hilltoppers won the girls 4A title with a score of 33 points, led by Jennifer Mooday who finished fourth overall in 19:17.90 and teammate Jordan Parker in fifth at 19:19.30.

Del Norte's Jenna Thurman also successfully defended her state title with a time of 19:02.70.

"I pushed it. I pushed for my dreams," Thurman said. "This is a nice way to finish the season. I was afraid I went out too fast because of the wind. I ended up pushing it. I really didn't know I had it until I came into the stadium."

Albuquerque Academy was second with 65 points led by runner-up Erin Archibeck (19:10.85), followed by St. Pius in third at 72, Piedra Vista in fourth with 165 points and Kirtland Central in fifth with 185 points.

The Lady Panthers were led by Paris Chee, who was 18th with a time of 20:26.35.

The Lady Broncos were led by Sheri Adair, who clocked in a personal best of 20:21.25 for 16th.

"I PR'd," said Adair. "It was the best time I've ever run. I'm so glad I did it at state my senior year. I did what I wanted to do. I came down to perform and that's what I did."

5A: Storm defends title

Last year the Cleveland High Storm swept through the state cross country meet, earning all four state titles. The Storm mounted a successful defense, capturing and defending three of those titles once again.

Luis Martinez kicked things off, defending his individual title with a dominating time of 15:16.90, followed by teammate Aaron Flores in second at 16:10.45. The Storm scored 23 points to defend its Class 5A boy's title.

"When you know your team's behind you and doing great themselves, it just makes (winning state) better," Martinez said.

Teammate Malia Gonzales also defended her state championship title as the Lady Storm took second as a team with 72 points.

"The Crowd was yelling, 'You have it. You have it. You're doing great,'" Gonzales said. "I wanted to break 19 (minutes)."

Gonzales did just that with a winning time of 18:59.45.

Eldorado captured the girls Class 5A title with a score of 51 points, led by Cassey Amberg in third at 19:54.30 and Crissey Amberg in fourth at 19:54.55.

First state titles in 1A

State cross country was also a day of firsts as Class 1A teams got the opportunity to compete in their own first state cross country as a division.

On the boys' side, the first ever state cross country title was earned by Cimarron High with a score of 45 points and was led by Jacob Subratie, who took second in 18:16.95.

Runner-up Tse Yi Gai High School, with 87 points, was led by Demar Whitehorse who took third in 19:00.

Jemez Valley's Trevor Armijo earned the first individual boys title in a time of 18:02.15. Jemez Valley took third overall with 95 points.

On the girls' side, Jemez Valley earned the state title with 27 points, led by state champion Valene Madalena in 20:32.45 and teammate Jade Altheide, who placed third in 21:36.40.

Cimarron High was second with 47 points, followed by Desert Academy with 69 points. Desert Academy's Taylor Bacon was second at 20:54.75. Tse Yi Gai's Marilyn Werito was fourth overall in 21:51.40.

"It feels great," said Madalena. "My strategy was just to go out, stick with the runners, pick it up every mile and finish strong. I wasn't sure I had it until I finished. It was a tough course and good competition."

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