At two miles in, it was still anybody's race at the Albuquerque Academy Invitational. Photos by Blake Wood.
The 2013 XC season has been rich with storylines for the ABQ metro area, and Friday’s Albuquerque Academy Invitational was the next juicy plot line in a season quickly becoming both competitive and exciting.
Although an afternoon race, the Academy Invitational was not set against the typical hot and arid weather. Rather, the high mountain desert brought the first cold front, menacing clouds, and a chilly draft to remind athletes, coaches, and fans that cross country season is for the hardy.
The course was in excellent shape, graded throughout the week to make sure the recent downpours wouldn’t chew up the running lanes. With cloudy weather and a fast course, the cooler weather welcomed a deluge of spectacular performances.
The first race of the afternoon was the Varsity Boys, and the top ABQ metro teams lined up against their notable neighbors from Gallup, Los Alamos, Laguna Acoma, and Piedra Vista.
A single starter’s gun shot ignited a frenzy of fit harriers upon the course, and the boys quickly sprinted past the screaming fans and into the unforgiving and uphill first mile. As the boys finished their ascent, they were greeted with a series of steep hills to traverse, which are vicious after such a tough first mile. AS the boys opened up their strides and continued back towards adoring fans and impatient coaches, it became evident that the Academy Chargers were playing for keeps.
The lead pack contained Academy’s Kevin Wyss and Kyle Carrozza, along with Los Alamos’ Colin Hemez, Cleveland’s Jared Mayoral and Aaron Flores, Eldorado’s Taylor Potter, Piedra Vista’s Harrison Fleming, and Miyamura’s Niles Thomas. This group hung tough throughout the first half of the race, until the Charger’s duo decided to squeeze the trigger and extend their lead. Behind the leaders, the quality of Academy’s depth quickly surfaced, as their pack moved up and asserted themselves.
In the end, the Academy Chargers banded together to attack their course with relentless fitness. Sometimes its easy to offer platitudes concerning their chances for victory on the home course. Yes, they can practice there every day, and, yes, they have the course’s rolling hills memorized.
I’d like to think that Academy’s racing style is simpler and more carnal. Simply refuse to let your home turf go unprotected, defend until the very end. This might sound a little much, but you could very much see it in their eyes. Academy’s Kevin Wyss outlasted teammate Kyle Carrozza for the win, and the Chargers kicked off another year defending their home course. Piedra Vista and Gallup gave chase, and proved that 4A might have more parity among those aiming for a team trophy.
Varsity Boys Team Results:
1. Albuquerque Academy 41
2. Cleveland 97
3. Eldorado 110
4. La Cueva 118
5. Los Alamos 122
6. Piedra Vista 161
7. Gallup 200
8. Laguna Acoma 209
9. Miyamura 234
10. Volcano Vista 286
Varsity Girls Race:
While the varsity boys race didn’t produce spectacular all-time performances, the girls race kicked off with a flurry of aggressive racing in pursuit of fast times.
Eldorado’s fearsome trio of Jessie Hix (photo, left, with 800 meters remaining), Cassey Amberg, and Crissey Amberg were were joined briefly by Sandia Prep’s Rachel Fledderman and Academy’s Cameren Kristensen. However, it was quickly apparent that Hix was going wire-to-wire, and was in no mood to deal with surges or tactics. She simply went out hard and kept the pedal down the entire time.
The interesting development was teammate Crissey Amberg, who was also running a all-time performance, but wasn’t pressing nearly as much. A game of cat and mouse, even by Eagles, gave a nuanced understanding that championships aren’t won in September. As Coach Adam Kedge famously says, “El Camino is long.” Hix did claim individual honors, and did so in course record fashion with a time of 18:25. Teammate Crissey Amberg tied the all-time #3 mark with her 18:32, and sister Cassey Amberg finished in 18:55 (also a top 10 perofrmance). Sandia Prep’s Rachel Fledderman showcased her finest performance, finishing in 19:00, outpacing Academy’s Cameren Kristensen in 19:03.
If the Eldorado girls have national team aspirations, their early season races have not provided competition worthy of testing their mettle. However, the Hilltoppers of Los Alamos provided a masterful showing of patience and top notch fitness as they moved through the pack to nearly upset the top-ranked Eldorado Eagles.
The Hilltoppers performances shifted the 4A balance of power, and reminded all that the Hilltoppers usually develop the finest team racing tactics. Rounding out the top teams, the Albuquerque Academy Chargers finished in 3rd place, followed by the La Cueva Bears in fourth place, and a fantastic performance propelled the Volcano Vista Hawks into fifth place.
Girls All-Time Performances
1. Jessie Hix – Eldorado, 18:25, 13
2. Vanessa Ortiz – Cibola, 18:30, 05
3. Malia Gonzales – Cleveland, 18:32, 12
Clara Milne – Academy, 18:32, 08
Crissey Amberg – Eldorado, 18:32, 13
4. Kristen Hemphill – Los Alamos, 18:39, 04
5. Irena Ossola – St Michaels, 18:50, 05
6. Leslie Luna – Academy, 18:52, 02
7. Cassey Amberg – Eldorado, 18:54, 12
8. Cassey Amberg – Eldorado, 18:55, 13
9. Claire Arichibeck – Academy, 18:59, 12
10. Elba Holguin – Valley, 19:00, 06
Rachel Fledderman – Sandia Prep, 19:00, 13
Girls Team Results:
1. Eldorado 47
2. Los Alamos 53
3. Albuquerque Academy 87
4. La Cueva 118
5. Volcano Vista 123
6. Sandia Prep 167
7. Cleveland 220
8. Valencia 234
9. Sandia 264
10. Gallup 289