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Kirtland girls validate coach’s faith

FRUITLAND

Kirtland Central High School coach Lenny Esson always saw something special in his girls’ cross country team.

They didn’t always finish with the top runners or always win the important races, but he knew they could.

Last week at Broncos’ home meet, the Broncos Ridge Runner XC Invite, his girls’ team proved what he already knew when they won the team title with 27 points. Page (Arizona) finished in second with 77 points and Navajo Preparatory School in third with 104 points.

Esson said it was defining moment for his team.

“I think with our girls it’s just been progression throughout the season,” he said. “We have some girls who can prepare very well, they just started out the season slow. We just have to make slow progression to get to this point.”

Page senior Victoria Tenpenny led the race and finished first in 20:42.5 just ahead of Kirtland Central’s frontrunner Michaela Hawkins who finished in second and first for the team in 20:54.9.

Following Hawkins in third overall and second for the team was Tiajhae Nez in 20:57.8. In fourth overall and third for the team was Autumn Harrison who finished in 21:08.6.

On the boys’ end, the Broncos have grown accustomed to running with the big boys.

Esson said their home race was expected to gauge their state performances in two weeks, and his team met the expectations.

He said he hoped Page would help them test themselves as they’re the No. 3 ranked team in Arizona regardless of class, and he considered them to be a match to their state rivals Albuquerque Academy.

“I told the boys ‘We need you to be able to fill these spots.’ If we can get really close to Page or even beat Page that will gives us the confidence going into state,” Esson said. “It played out pretty well.”

Kirtland Central won the team title with 29 points, just edging Page who finished behind them with 36 points. Navajo Prep finished in third with 62 points.

Kirtland Central junior Kashon Harrison led the race and team and finished first in 15:45.6. Coming in second for the team and fourth overall was Tristen George in 16:55.9.


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About The Author

Sunnie R. Clahchischiligi

Sunnie Clahchischiligi has been the sports writer for the Navajo Times since 2008. She has a bachelor’s degree in print journalism from the University of New Mexico. Before joining the Times, she worked at the St. Cloud Times (Minn.), the Albuquerque Journal, the Santa Fe New Mexican, Sports Illustrated Magazine in New York City and the Salt Lake Tribune. She can be reached at sunnie@navajotimes.com or via cell at (505) 686-0769.

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