Distance runner Alex Heffelfinger has enjoyed a great season to date and can do a great deal this weekend to keep his East Mountain team in the title hunt. Photo by Alan Versaw.
Friday and Saturday will settle a lot of things between New Mexico's 1A and 2A track and field programs. Things will be very busy at the UNM track and field stadium as the best talent in the smaller school classifications converges on the grand stage.
Allowing that there have been meets all season long from which potentially telling results have been missed, here is what things look like:
Right alongside "never get involved in a land war in Asia" as life advice is "never bet against Fort Sumner in 1A girls." It really doesn't seem to matter all that much what things look like coming into the state meet. When the dust settles, it settles around, and not on, Fort Sumner. Potential threats come from Jemez Valley, Desert Academy, Cimarron, and Mountainair, but Fort Sumner goes in as the favorites.
The dominating individual talent that has carried Fort Sumner in years past is a little more subdued this year, but the ability to score well in almost every event and capitalize big in relays is every bit as much in place as it has been.
To make their challenge, Jemez Valley will lean heavily on the talents of thrower Jazmine Chosa, sprinter/jumper Jade Altheide, and distance runner Valene Madalena. Desert Academy will counter with Taylor Bacon in distance events, and Zoe Castro and Isabel Pearson Kramer in the sprints. Mountainair will relay heavily on the talents of Teryn Kayser and Taylor Gikas. Cimarron comes with a hand much like Fort Sumner's--depth across a nice range of events--and Zena Stevenson as a favored hurdler.
Cimarron is looking very good here. But, if you have a memory back as far as state cross country, the Rams were looking very good coming into that event as well. Upsets happen.
Cimarron's strengths, though, are many. With the possible exceptions of javelin and long jump, Cimarron could score in every event. Efrain Acosta, Henry Sime, Jacob Subratie, Josh Trujillo, Thomas Gallegos, Reuben Mulkey, and the rest give Cimarron an array of talent few small schools ever even dream of. And, it's entirely possible that Cimarron's memory of state cross country is better than anyone else's.
Cliff and Fort Sumner seem best-equipped to give chase, but both schools need a lot of things to go right for them to overhaul the Ram Express. Cliff is characteristically strong in the jumps, but will need to augment that with some big relay results. Michael Giannini gives Fort Sumner a huge potential pile of points in the throws, and the pack of Foxes is substantial, but maybe not quite as deep as Cimarron.
As much as I like Bosque as a team favorite here, I have to temper that with a realization that they may be spreading their distance talent a little thinly across the table. Jackie Katzman and the sisters Kelly each have to come up big across their events as there is not a lot of margin for error here. And, winning both the 4x400 and SMR seems non-negotiable to their team title chances. That's a lot to ask. We'll find out soon what comes of it.
Primary threats come out of Estancia, NMMI, and East Mountain. But, it's also true that each of these three schools needs to have a big meet from certain key individuals in order to win.
Right now, I have very little data on NMMI relays. If they piece together some big relays without too badly damaging their sprint bank of points, NMMI becomes a very dangerous team in a hurry. Keep close tabs on this team early to see how points are stacking up and take your cues from those early indicators.
East Mountain is also strong, but also relying heavily on a short list of individuals. Amanda Bishop has middle distances covered. Amira Cunningham and Addison Rauch go longer. Kristen Dean adds punch at 400 meters. Oh, how this team could use some field event points...
Estancia will lean heavily on sprinter Alisa Miller, distance runner Aubri Wrye, and some very good relays. Like East Mountain, this is a team that could make very good use of some field event help.
Texico has the look of being the most solid entry of the bunch this year, but it's not a done deal. Texico will look to hurdler Adrian Gomez, sprinter Justin Rucker, pole vaulter Arnolfo Deanda, and some very nice sprint relays for the bulk of their points.
Santa Rosa, Cobre, East Mountain, and Estancia are the best of the rest.
East Mountain's hopes lean hard on distance runners Alex Heffelfinger and Alex McKee.
Santa Rosa may have the most depth and breadth in the field and they are especially strong in the throws with James Moncayo and Robert Zamora.
Estancia looks toward thrower Caleb Ortiz, a strong set of jumpers, and distance runner Jakob Bernal.
For Cobre, hopes pin themselves to the singlets of hurdler Mike Pena, middle distance type Daniel Soliz, and a solid set of relays.
Nobody is going to take down Texico, though, with a merely ordinary meet.