Cleveland Answers the Skeptics

The Eldorado girls and Cleveland boys link arms in celeb ration of their team titles at Saturday's Cleveland Invitational. Photo by Askia McCulley.



It started, appropriately enough, with a storm.  In the early hours of September 8, the first cool air of the fall season blew into the Albuquerque area from the west.  Rain fell, wind blew, and by the time the Cleveland High School Cross Country Invitational kicked off in Rio Rancho, NM, the temperature had plummeted into the low 60s (a far cry from the high 80s that had characterized the week).  The winds calmed and the result was a “lightning” fast three-mile Cross Country race. 
As far as race results are concerned, they can be summed up, boys and girls, in three words: Cleveland, Academy, Eldorado.
The first gun of the day was for the varsity boys division, where the host school blew away a deep and talented field.  Cleveland High School, coming off a surprising defeat at the UNM invitational a week ago, wasted no time getting back on track.  The Storm took six of the top nine places en route to a microscopic 18 point score.  
Superstar senior Luis Martinez, looking like the dominant power he has come to represent, led the boys in blue as usual.  Martinez covered the distance in a swift 15:23.  Junior teammate Aaron Flores was second in 15:51 and senior Matt Smith gave Cleveland a 1-2-3 sweep with a 16:02 effort of his own.  Notably absent from the field was Volcano Vista senior Zac Castillo, who spent his Saturday morning taking the ACT.   
With the team battle already decided, a heated showdown soon developed between traditional powerhouse Albuquerque Academy and this season’s upstart story, the boys from Eldorado.  While Academy rested a couple of key runners (in preparation for next weekend’s Liberty Bell invitational in Littleton, CO), Eldorado looked to build on their breakout season.  The two teams ran close together at all five scoring positions, and the race for second wasn’t decided until it’s waning moments, where the Chargers did just enough to gain the edge.  The final margin was 86-88 in favor of Adam Kedge’s squad.
And there you have it: Cleveland, Academy, Eldorado.
Flash forward a half hour.  Same weather, same schools, same story, reverse the order.
The Eldorado girls did their best Los Alamos impression; controlling the first half of the race with a tight pack strategy that included all seven of their runners.  Paced by junior Crissey Amberg, who finished 4th overall in 19:32, the lady Eagles took four of the top eight spots and six of the top fifteen.  Their final tally was a respectable 39 points, the best in the field.
As on the boys’ side, the better competition was for second, where the Albuquerque Academy girls capitalized on their depth.  Down by eight points through three runners, the Charger women made up ground with their fourth and fifth scorers to pull dead even with the hosts, 69 points each.  Academy junior Mara Short broke the tie with a 29th place overall finish to give the Chargers their second 2nd place trophy of the day.  
There you have it again: Eldorado, Academy, Cleveland.
Individually, the girls’ race went to Belen freshman Arena Lewis, who led start-to-finish in 18:42.  Cleveland senior and defending 5A state champion Malia Gonzales was second in 18:52.  Volcano Vista senior Elisa Woody bounced back from a rough night at UNM with a third place finish in 19:05.
Beginning with the custom-tailored weather, continuing with a spectator-and-runner-friendly course and ending with a full complement of awards, Cleveland High School put on a first-rate meet for which participation will undoubtedly be in high demand in years to come.  
The New Mexico XC scene will now take a short hiatus from signature competition.  In the coming weeks, some schools will travel across state lines to test the powers in Colorado and Arizona.  Most Albuquerque area schools will spend some time running small local meets before the powers (Academy, Cleveland, Eldorado, Los Alamos, and others) convene for the annual Albuquerque Academy Invitational on Friday, September 28.  
Until then.