Lifted by a Tailwind

There are few bad days under the sun at the UNM track. Photo by Nick Martinez.

The 2013 Rio Rancho Tailwind Invitational was an early season affair to remember, and showcased New Mexico’s high school athletes at UNM Stadium alongside collegiate competition headlined by the University of New Mexico Lobos and New Mexico State University’s Aggies.
Friday’s action was met with gusty winds, rolling clouds, and the occasional burst of sunshine. However, many fantastic athletes put on a show and denied the weather from ever being an excuse or hindrance to their performances. Distance aficionados were treated to cool weather and bright lights on Friday night, which made for a wonderful racing & spectator experience. Saturday’s weather was perfectly mild, as the wind died down and let the athletes become the focal point of a wonderful meet. The 2013 edition of the Tailwind Invitational was not for the weary, as an extra wrinkle of intrigue was introduced with the seeded heats being run on Saturday. 
Final team scores helped to establish a clearer picture of team depth and early season improvement, as the girls team scores were as follows: La Cueva (1st – 113.5), Eldorado (2nd – 94), Volcano Vista (3rd – 63), Rio Rancho (4th - 54), and Del Norte (5th – 51). Boys team scores followed an order of: Cibola (1st – 110.33), Volcano Vista (2nd – 89), Rio Rancho (3rd – 70), La Cueva (4th – 65), and Highland (5th – 63.33). 
Race Recaps & Action:
Boys 800m
Reigning 5A State Champion Randy Dias (La Cueva) made his season debut and quickly established the 800m pecking order in New Mexico. Dias led wire to wire in windy conditions, and was followed closely by Christopher Graham (St. Pius X) until the 700m mark. Dias sprinted home to finish in 1:58.62,  with Graham second in 2:00.22.
Girls 800m 
Stellar early season field, with several all-state honorees toeing the line. With high winds, strategy became more of a concern for all runners, and the first 400m was cautiously led by Hattie Schunk (La Cueva), as the main pack of girls consisting of Chrissey Amberg (Eldorado) and Mason Swanson (La Cueva) closely hit the 400m split at 1:12. Schunk quickly accelerated with 350m remaining and opened up a sizeable lead at the 600m mark. Amberg broke away to challenge, but ran out of real estate as Schunk ran a negative split to finish in 2:22.81, with Amberg second in 2:24.61.
Boys 110m Hurdles
Mustafa Mudada (Highland) stung the field and continued the Highland Hornet’s hurdling pedigree. Mudada erupted from the blocks and cleanly cleared the field early. Dustin Lamar (Rio Grande) closed late to finish in second with a state qualifying mark (15.54).
Girls 300m Hurdles 
This race introduced the state leader, as Jessica Scherrer (Del Norte) jumped out to an early lead and never relinquished as she sped away from Cassie Boren (La Cueva) and Stephanie Brener (La Cueva). Scherrer ran a state leading time of 45.04, with Boren second (47.31) and Brener third (47.99).
Girls 400m
Emerging force Jessie Hicks (Eldorado) sped out to dominate the field (57.65), while Amanda Babicke (59.88) turned in a very respectable performance to become the early season 3A favorite.
Boys Javelin
Tanner Tatterhorn (Eldorado, 1st – 175’10”) bested a solid field led by Christopher Garica (Cibola, 2nd – 174’10”) and Mike Budick (Volcano Vista 3rd 169’2”). Budick has been particularly great during the early season, making Garcia’s & Tatterhorn’s performances all the more impressive.
Girls 4x200m Relay
Eldorado and La Cueva squared off to test the mettle of their sprinters, and La Cueav’s Cassie Boren surged late off the final turn to pass Eldorado’s Ashley Howell. Both team qualified for state, as La Cueva won in1:46.59, with Eldorado second in 1:47.77
Girls Pole Vault 
Four young vaulters easily bettered the state qualifying standard, and punched their tickets to state leadership status. Lauren Martinez (Eldorado, 1st – 11’6”) emerged victorious, while Merica Valdez (Rio Rancho, 2nd – 10’6”), Anna Duvall (Hope Christian, 3rd – 10’0”), and Jensen Hatch (Valencia, 4th- 8’9”) all vaulted to respectable heights.
Girls Seeded 3200m
Jenna Thurman (Del Norte) faced a valiant effort from Jessie Hicks (Eldorado) to win with a state leading time (11:26.68). Hicks made this race extremely exciting, as she caught Thurman as the bell lap sounded and darted ahead for 300 meters. Thurman pulled even on the homestretch and matched strides until the final meters, where Thurman smartly lunged at the line for the win.
Boys Seeded 3200m
When Luis Martinez (Cleveland) is absent from the field, many high quality runners race with a cavalier edge as they aggressively race themselves into the state qualifying picture. Chris Harlow (Cibola), perhaps feeling spry under the bright lights, went out fast in 64 seconds and opened a huge gap on the field. Preston Charlie (Rio Rancho) and Justin Kerstetter (Manzano) led the chase pack as Harlow stubbornly refused to slow down. In the end, Charlie prevailed to get the win (9:55.02) and overshadow both Harlow’s runner-up performance (9:58.12) and Kerstetter’s new lifetime best (10:01.82).
Girls 4x400m Relay
At the end of a very long meet, several teams capitalized on perfect weather and sprinted home to state qualifying marks. Eldorado’s Jessie Hicks concluded a stellar weekend as she anchored the Eagles to a 4:06.42 finish. The top 6 finishers all qualified for the state meet, with Volcano Vista (2nd – 4:10.68), Del Norte (3rd – 4:12.46), St Pius X (4th – 4:15.51), Hope Christian (5th – 4:18.08), and Valencia (6th – 4:19.99) rounding out the team scoring.
Notable Athletic Performances:
Mustafa Mudada (Highland) – Mudada stunningly won the 110 Hurdles (14.70), the Long Jump (20’10.25”), and the 300m hurdles (39.83). 
Amanda Babicke (Pojoaque) – Babicke is the 3A state leader in the 400m (59.88), won the seeded 200m (26.51), and won the long jump (17’10”). Babicke is a perennial high point scoring threat at the State Championships.
Randy Dias (La Cueva) – Dias executed a tough double on Friday night to win both the 800m (1:58.62) and anchor the winning Medley Relay (2:02 split). Dias also anchored the 1600m relay to state qualifying mark (3:28.11).
Jenna Thurman (Del Norte) – Won the 1600m seeded section (5:09.63), and won the 3200 seeded section in an exciting last second lunge to nip Jessie Hicks  and win (11:26). Thurman currently owns the fastest times in the 800m, 1600m, and 3200m distances across all NM classifications.
Mike Budick (Volcano Vista) – Budick has continued his fantastic early season form with a solid win in the discus (162’1”), runner-up heave in the shot put (49’10”), and a 3rd place performance in the javelin (169’2”).
Hattie Schunk (La Cueva) – Won the 800m race (2:22.), and dueled with Thurman in the 1600m seeded section with a runner-up finish (5:15.27). 
Jessica Scherrer (Del Norte) – Scherrer won the 100m seeded section (12.79),  finished second in the 100 hurdles (15.55), and blitzed the field in the 300m hurdles (45.04).
Jessie Hicks (Eldorado) – Won the 400 Seeded Section (57.65), nearly won the 3200m seeded section (11:26.72), and was an integral cog in the state qualifying 4x200m relays and 4x400m relays.