Cleveland Invite Kicks Off Season in Spectacular Fashion

Photo by Jaren Brooks

Related: New Mexico XC Countdown Rankings I Cleveland Invite Photo Album I Cleveland Invite Results

El Paso America leads a handful to sub-16 Performances

The atmosphere was reminiscent of days past as droves of spectators flocked to the start line ahead of the boys and girls varsity races at the Cleveland Invitational. Ideal weather conditions on the last weekend in August gave way to a fast start in the boys' varsity race with an emerging pack of a dozen from each team's frontrunners with El Paso America's Jared Laverty led from start to finish. After the two-mile mark, Laverty and Los Alamos' Keith Bridge had separated themselves as they sprinted their way around the perimeter of the stadium before storming their way onto the final bend onto the track. Laverty clocking in at 15:30 while Bridge 15:35 will lead New Mexico runners to end the first weekend. Rio Rancho's Dawson Gunn showing his experience and fitness coming off his 5A 1600m state title with a 15:45 3rd place finish. Sandia lands a pair within the top 10 with Steven West (15:51) coming in 4th and Issac Tucker Scott (15:57) coming in 6th.  El Paso America's would prove to be in prime form as Carmelo Corral  (15:56) and Aaron Saenz (16:04) landing in the top 10 was detrimental to their team capturing an out-of-state win.

Photo by Jaren Brooks

Newcomers rise while Los Alamos returns in prime form

In the girls' race, we saw some familiar faces doing what they do best while some newcomers emerge ready to challenge. Leah Futey shot out of the startline separating herself from the rest of the field as they crossed the grassy terrain while freshman Carysa Marquez of Volcano Vista was bold enough to pursue. They would remain neck and neck for nearly the entirety of the race while the pack behind them showed no desire to even attempt to shorten the gap. The Hilltoppers of Los Alamos followed up the leading pair with Norissa Valdez alongside Delaney Ulrich and Kelly Wetteland felt content on their position which would hold up for the first two miles. This front pack would also include a pair of Albuquerque high runners including Ava Straton and freshman Daniela Figueroa alongside La Cueva's Ariana Thiel-Hadjilambrinos and ABQ Academy's Emma Patton who appeared to have a huge smile on her face going through the first mile. Futey would take the win on her home course in 18:11 while the youngster Marquez would follow shortly after in 18:16. Los Alamos just cruised to an early-season win as Ulrich (18:46) and Valdez (19:17) came in 3rd and 4th.  Other scoring Hilltoppers included Wetteland (19:22) in 7th, Emma Montoya (19:39) in 10th, and Hailey McDowell (20:17) in 15th.

Photo by Jaren Brooks

Takeaways from Cleveland Invite

Looking beyond the fact that athletes are in phenomenal shape entering this season for the long-awaited return of Fall cross country. Los Alamos should come to surprise no one as they surely are the real deal. We also find that if you have been keeping up with our New Mexico Cross Country Countdown series that some teams look to be on the right track. Teams like Volcano Vista that we generously put as the #2 boys team returning did not disappoint as they proved to be the top 5A team amongst the competition and they have probably the best 1-5 runner split that we may see this year at 9 seconds. They claimed spots (17,18,19,20,24) with some newcomers like Cruz Sanchez and Orion Chavez playing a role. Speaking of newcomers, Volcano Vista's Carysa Marquez just proved early on that she intends to be the next challenger against Leah Futey. Sandia's dynamic duo of Steven West and Issac Tucker Scott has surprised with sub-16 minute performances to add themselves to the list of challengers against Rio Rancho's Dawson Gunn. Albuquerque High's Daniela Figueroa is another freshman to keep an eye out for as the season progresses as she ran to a 19:17 performance that garnered 5th place.