It’s time for the cross country season grand finale: the state championships are on Nov. 11 at Albuquerque Academy.
High school distance runners from Moriarty, East Mountain, and Estancia competed at their respective district meets on Nov. 3 to qualify for the state meet. Some made the cut. Others came up short. Here is a look at the area teams and individual runners who will be toeing the line when the horn sounds.
Moriarty’s girls’ team is galloping full speed ahead after taking second at the District 2-4A meet last week in Pojoaque with 76 points. Led by Carmen Dorsey-Spitz, who finished 10th in a time of 22 minutes, 51.55 seconds, the Pintos finished with 76 points, just ahead of Taos, who came in with 79. Four-time defending state champion Los Alamos cruised to first place with a tidy 19 points and will be in the hunt for a fifth title.
“Of course, Los Alamos was first,” Moriarty head coach Ben Wiltbank said. “But we were able to beat Taos and everybody else so that was exciting. The girls ran very well.”
In high school cross country, the top five runners from each team receive points that correspond with their placing. The team with the lowest points wins the meet. In classes 3A, 4A, and 5A, which include Moriarty (4A) and East Mountain (3A), the top three teams at their district meets qualify for the state championships. The top three individual runners from non-qualifying teams also qualify for state.
Ashtyn Walter was 13th in 23:44.37 and Kyndal Wiltbank finished 17th in 24:19.82.
“It’s a big deal for us that we got second place because that hasn’t happened in 20 years,” Kyndal Wiltbank said.
Wiltbank was Moriarty’s top finisher at last year’s state meet, finishing 26th overall, but after coming down with pneumonia over the summer, she is still working to get back to full strength.
“I’ve been doing a lot of mental work and just trying to get that fire back, and I think I’ve found it again, so I’m ready to show it this week,” she said.
Walter was Moriarty’s top finisher at last month’s Albuquerque Academy Extravaganza, and she was the Pintos’ second runner to cross the line at state last year. She said she’s relieved that the district meet is in the rearview mirror.
“I think that districts was the real stressor for everyone because that’s where you either qualify or you don’t,” Walter said. “There’s still pressure going to state, but it’s kind of like, you’re qualified, you’ve done the work and now you just gotta run your race.”
Olivia Hasler and Clara Windsor, who finished 19th and 20th, respectively, rounded out Moriarty’s top five. Hasler and Windsor had a photo-finish, crossing the line within a half-second of each other.
“Olivia and Clara were really close, they were right together, which is good, it means they push each other,” Coach Wiltbank said.
On the boys’ side, Moriarty had a fourth-place team finish, missing out on a trip to state as a unit. The Pintos finished with 108 points, six points behind third-place Pojoaque Valley with 102. Los Alamos won district, followed by Taos.
“It was close, we were fighting for third,” coach Wiltbank said, adding that three Pojoaque runners outkicked three Pintos down the stretch. “We had them about a half mile from the finish and they got us. We lost it at the end.”
Bruno Vaquera’s 19th place in 19:41.12 qualified him to compete at the state meet as an individual. He will be the only runner representing Moriarty’s boys.
“Sadly, yeah, I wish I had my team with me, I’m gonna be all alone out there,” Vaquera said. “I’m hoping to do my best.”
The Timberwolves hosted the District 5-3A meet and punched their ticket to state by securing a second-place team finish with 46 points. Albuquerque’s Cottonwood Classical Prep won the meet with 22 points.
“They were a strong second,” East Mountain head coach Joe Komensky said of the boys’ team. “I knew it was gonna be a shootout.”
Komensky said the Timberwolves are gelling at the most important time of the season.
“They act as a team, they function as a team, they’re all in it together, which is just as important as running, and I’m super-proud of that,” Komensky said.
Freshman Josh Komensky paced the Timberwolves in 20:39.82, good for 4th, with Andre LaJeunesse 7th in 20:53.21, and Ewan Kannolt 10th in 21:40.61. Skylar Reilly finished eight seconds behind Kannolt to claim 11th, and Hayden Villescas took 14th in 22:12.15 to round out East Mountain’s top five.
Coach Komensky said the team, aside from his son, Josh, is basically the same as last year, but the runners are clocking much better times.
“Their average times have decreased by two minutes,” coach Komensky said. “I’m confident in their ability to do better than last year, and that’s the goal, have a solid finish and show improvement.”
East Mountain’s girls finished fourth with 87 points, missing out on a trip to state by a slim three points behind Cuba.
East Mountain sophomore Ruth Trullinger qualified as an individual for state, finishing 15th in 25:20.66.
“Super-glad she’s going to represent the school,” Komensky said.“And I’m glad I have her for two more years.”
Komensky said the girls’ team is small and relatively young, with Trullinger and senior Verity Gray the only runners with cross-country experience.
“They shouldn’t be too disappointed that they’re not going as a team,” Komensky said. “They missed it by a very slim margin, they’ve made some amazing gains this year and I’m going to build on that going forward.”
The Lady Bears clinched a trip to the state championships by a whisker, garnering a sixth-place team finish at their District 2-1A/2A meet in Pecos.
In Class 1A/2A, the top six teams at district meets qualify for state, along with the top four individual runners from non-qualifying teams.
“We did what we needed to do to qualify,” Estancia head coach Adrienne Pierce said. “We squeezed by.”
Lyndi Otis led the Bears, finishing 30th in 27:34. Jhenna Valencia followed at 33rd in 28:05.Caelee Taylor finished 35th in 28:24; Molli Garcia, 37th in 29:01; and Lucille Summers rounded out the top five, finishing 42nd in 31:20.
“They were all pretty close together,” Pierce said. “If they can stick together [at state] and move with each other that’ll be a success.”
Pierce said she hasn’t had a full girls’ team at every meet this season due to conflicts with schedules and injuries. Valencia, who was Estancia’s top finisher at last year’s state meet by coming 55th, has been bothered by a hip injury she sustained earlier in the season.
“Honestly, my expectation for some of them is just to finish,” the coach said. “I really just want them to cross the finish line, gain some confidence and feel accomplished.”
Estancia’s boys’ team didn’t make state, but three individuals, Stephen Barela, Braxton Springer, and Clay Hedges qualified.
Barela, who received All-District honors, led the Bears with a 12th-place finish in 19:56; Springer followed at 25th in 21:09; Hedges, 38th in 22:27.
“The boys did really well, they’ve made a lot of growth this season,” Pierce said, adding that the competition is tough in small-school boys cross country, “You gotta have your big-boy pants on.”