Molly Klein snared most of the Rio Rancho headlines, but much of how Rio Rancho does next year will be determined by those around her, like freshman-to-be Sierra Delaware. Photo by Alan Versaw.
So, who do you go with in New Mexico 6A girls in the fall of 2014? Do you take the team that stunned everyone--and most especially highly favored Eldorado--and loses only one senior from its scoring five to graduation? Do you take the team that was very young, but also very promising, all through the fall before struggling just a little at the state meet? Or do you send a nod in the direction of the rising power on the west side of Albuquerque?
They're all great choices!
But, since La Cueva won it all in rousing fashion last fall, we'll start with the Bears. Nick Martinez's crew returns a stalwart lineup of Mackenzie Everett, Abigail Napier, Elizabeth Weeks, Noelle Hendrickson, Lindsay DeGolyer, Mason Swanson, and Kirsten Fotieo. They are not only fast, they are deep. If this team goes into next fall believing they can, I would not want to be the person assigned to tell them they can't. Still, winning the second championship is, by reputation, more difficult than winning the first.
Rio Rancho was the team of promise last fall. That promise, however, took a wrong turn before the state meet. And that left the Rams in fourth place. Molly Klein, Sierra Delaware, Alliana Atencio, Joanna Fernandez, and company should be an older, wiser, and hungrier set of Rams in 2014.
Volcano Vista, meanwhile, has been quietly clawing their way to credibility over the last couple of years. Rebecca Castillo returns to lead this team for one more charge. And next year they just might be close enough to start the season believing that the big goal is within reach. Sierras Maple and Quinones moved up into big contributing roles this past fall and will be needed once again if the Hawks are to contend. And, VV will need to develop the scoring positions behind them as well.
These three schools should form the vanguard of contending teams for next fall. The analysis below based on times from this season shows Eldorado probably a shade lower than anyone should count on them being. Massive graduation will hit the Eagles ranks in the spring, but tradition isn't on the list of graduates. Eldorado is perennially good, and anyone counting on the team in orange going away is probably kidding themselves.
From outside the Albuquerque Metro area, Alamogordo and Clovis both showed signs of promise last fall. Clovis showed better at the state meet, but it's a bad idea to lightly dismiss any team on the rise. Onate and Sandia are two more teams with enough young talent in the stable to potentially create some problems for the traditional favorites.
Where individuals are concerned, Molly Klein and Jessie Hix own, by far, the best returning 5K times from 2013. It remains to be seen how Hix attempts to balance the demands of soccer and cross country next fall. Behind these two are a large collection of girsl who ran sub-20 at least once (and usually more than that) during the 2013 season.
So, while last year ended up being surprisingly competitive for 5A girls despite the early forecasts, 6A girls in 2014 promises to hold a compelling story line right from the opening of the season.