Last year, it was Hope and Silver. It could be the same this year, but it's way too soon to be counting on that. Let's start with the boys and take a closer look at the possibilities.
Silver, of course, is back. Though they graduated several from last year's winning team, the strong core of a title team has returned. Whether it's Andrew Little in the hurdles, Dakota Bencomo in the sprints, relays, and javelin, Michael Lucero in the distance events, Ishmael Jacquez in the 400, or Branndon Molina in the throws, Silver has a lot of ways to put a lot of points on the board.
As defending state champions, nobody is overlooking the Fighting Colts, but there are a few folks taking aim.
One of those teams taking aim in Lovington. The Wildcats more or less own the 3A pole vault and figure to pile up some serious points there. Whether that's enough points to launch them into a full-fledged title run with Silver remains to be seen. Besides the pole vault, Ryan Thomas promises to produce some points in the jumps to aid the cause. Other sources of point potential include Kaiden Ochoa in the sprints, Dante Rios in the hurdles, and a promising set of relays.
St. Michael's is another team to watch for, only their program is more field and track than track and field. Throwers Joris and Mathias Hochanadel, and Santo Coppola join with jumpers Isiah Domingez and Salomon Martinez to create a very dangerous field event group. If the Horsemen can squeeze some sprint and relay points into the mix, they will be a load to handle. To date, however, the relays have not been the stuff of shock and awe.
Hope Christian is another team that has yet to tap into the relays in a meaningful sort of way. The Huskies boast massive scoring potential in thrower Jonathan Millar, distance runner Josh Diltz (photo, above, by Sandi Noe), and sprinter Kevin Keys, but the big points at the state meet come via the relays. If Hope is unable produce there, their chances become very limited in a hurry.
Barring something very unusual happening, these four teams should be telling most of the story of the AAA boys state meet. Favorite status goes to Silver and Lovington based on their ability to field top-tier relays and spread the point production across more athletes, but it would be a serious mistake to count either Hope or St. Michael's out.
For the girls, it's mostly a different cast of schools. Mostly, but not entirely.
Hope Christian will seek to defend their state title from a year ago with many of the same names. There would be Anna Duvall in the hurdles and pole vault, Emily Nicolaysen in the triple jump, Maggie Carrico in the hurdles, Michaiah Chock in the sprints, Bailey Dugan in the horizontal jumps, and Cierrah Kassetas in the throws. With that many talented bodies on the roster, you would expect the relays to be productive--and they have. It's difficult to see the Huskies as anything other than the favorites going in.
One team that dreams of giving Hope fits is Ruidoso. The cast of characters is a lot more limited for Ruidoso, by Andi Harrelson (400, LJ), Ryan Flack (hurdles), Shalome Keller (sprints), and Tylynn Smith (HJ) are capable of putting a bunch of points on the board. So far, Ruidoso's relays have been nearly as productive as Hope's, but the concern would be running all of the relays at full strength. If Ruidoso can fully stock the relays, they are in the hunt in a serious way.
Sandia Prep and Pojoaque Valley harbor more distant hopes. SP has star power in Rachel Fleddermann and Mackenzie Blackburn, but need more people to telling contributions to the point total. Amanda Babicke is, of course, the big gun for Pojoaque. As strong as Babicke is, however, she can't put enough points on the board on here own to chase down Ruidoso or Hope Christian. Help has to come from different corners.
Robertson, Taos, and Socorro figure to have their moments in the spotlight, but the team title would be a major reach for any of these three.