Near the end of the Class 1A-3A high school state track and field championships, Estancia senior Katelyn Garcia tried to hold back her tears, but the waterworks won the battle.
“Cry it out girl, let it flow,” Daniel Pierce, Estancia’s assistant track coach, said as he gave Garcia a hug.
With a throw of 116 feet, 3 inches, Garcia bested her closest competitor by more than 7 feet to win the gold medal in the 2A girls javelin competition.
Estancia, along with East Mountain and Mountainair high schools, had several student-athletes compete in the two-day state championships that ran May 6-7 at the UNM track complex in Albuquerque.
Late Saturday afternoon, Garcia placed third in the shot put competition. Then she went to the other side of the field and made her first javelin throw of 115 feet, a personal best.
But a few throws later, she topped that distance by more than a foot to take home the gold. “It’s amazing, like, this is what I’ve been working for my last four years of high school,” she said.
“I told Katelyn after the state track meet last year, I said, ‘Next year is our year to go get it, but you have to put in the work,’ and that girl showed up every day and she worked,” Pierce said. “I couldn’t be more proud of that girl.”
Estancia’s girls 1,600-meter sprint medley relay team of Karina Villafuerte, Louriani Lopez, Alana Sosa, and Jayde Perea also got to climb to the top of the podium with a gold-medal winning time of 4 minutes, 43.71 seconds.
“I was really nervous at first,” said Villafuerte, who ran the opening leg of the race. Villafuerte handed off the baton to Lopez, who admitted to being “super-anxious.” Lopez then handed off to Sosa for the third leg.
“I really felt good toward the end,” Sosa said.
Estancia’s team was in third place, behind Rehoboth and Capitan, when Perea took the baton for the final 800 meters. She bolted past Rehoboth during her first lap around the 400-meter track. Then, at the start of the final lap, Perea poured on the juice, cut to the inside and cruised past the Capitan runner.
“She just decided this was her race and she took over,” Estancia head track coach Eric Lucero said of Perea.
The Capitan anchor made a last-ditch push down the final 100 meters but couldn’t catch the speedy Perea.
“Coach Lucero was yelling at me, ‘She’s gonna have a kick!’ and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I cannot let this girl pass me,’ and I didn’t wanna let my team down, so I ran my heart out,” Perea said.
Perea placed fifth in the individual 400-meter race and took second in the 800.
But the medley got Perea her first-ever gold medal.
“Finally!” Perea said. “It’s something I’ve been wanting to do my entire high school career, and this was the first time I got to stand at the top of the podium. This is my last hurrah.”
Estancia’s other podium finishers were the boys 4×200 relay team, which took fourth; the boys 4×800 and 4×100 teams both placed fifth; Daniela Ponce placed fifth in girls discus; Daniel Chavez finished sixth in the boys 100.
“All in all, I can’t complain, good track season,” Lucero said. “I’m glad to send Jayde Perea off with a gold medal, what a way to walk out on top. It was a great day—a podium day.”
In Class 3A, East Mountain’s Audria Vestal took second place in the girls 200 open.
“It was a good race, a solid race,” Vestal said.
Vestal took fourth place in the high jump, and she ran the third leg of the 4×200 to help her team win the silver medal. Suriah Washington ran the first leg, Makailey MacGregor ran the second, and Kaylee Baker ran the final leg.
“I ran one of my best 200s,” Baker said.
After taking the baton, Baker held the lead until the very end but was passed with about 15 meters to go by Dexter’s Nayeli Cobos—who also beat Vestal in the 200.
“That girl from Dexter just came out of nowhere,” Baker said. “I tried to keep up with her, but I was like, ‘I can’t,’ I was already at my peak, she’s a fast little girl.”
Baker placed sixth in the girls long jump.
In Class 1A, Mountainair’s podium finishers were the girls 4×100 and the girls 4×200 teams, both placed third; Sarajo Griego placed third in the girls 100 hurdles; Aaliyah Lopez finished fourth and Griego fifth in the 300 hurdles; the girls and boys 1,600 sprint medley relay teams both placed fourth; Christian Silva finished fifth in the boys 400 open; the girls 4×400 and 4×800 teams both placed sixth.
“We did well, we’re excited,” Mountainair head track coach Lynnelle Chavez said. “I feel like the girls had a really good day, they medaled and that’s a huge accomplishment. The boys got a medal in the medley relay, so they’re super-excited, so I feel like we’ve had a good day.”