King-sized races, super-close finishes, and runners ending or just beginning their prep careers with personal-best performances were all part of the action at the high school state cross country championships, Nov. 6 at Albuquerque Academy.

Estancia senior Jayde Perea was the only area runner to take home a medal, Moriarty senior Henry Schuett broke out a best-ever performance to help the Pintos finish sixth as a team, and East Mountain’s boys finished 10th with the help of senior Thomas Fabian, who took up distance running just a few months ago.

The state championship meet marks the end of cross country season, and for some, it marks the end of their high school cross country careers.

Hundreds of the best high school distance runners in New Mexico had to qualify at their district meets to earn a spot at the state championships. The top schools at their district meets brought entire boys or girls teams. Both Moriarty and East Mountain qualified their boys’ teams. For schools that didn’t place high enough to bring a full team—such as Estancia, and Moriarty’s and East Mountain’s girls—they brought individual runners who placed high enough at their districts, like Perea, who placed third at her district meet.

The state meet comprised eight separate races on a 5K, or 3.1-mile course. The meet started in the morning with classes 1A-2A boys and girls races, followed by classes 3A, 4A, and 5A boys and girls races. The top-10 finishers in each race were awarded medals.

Perea—the only Estancia girl running at state— wrapped up her cross country career by being the top placer among area schools, bolting to a 10th-place finish out of a field of 107 runners in the Class 1A-2A girls race with a time of 21:55.87.

“It was tough, I did all right, I got a medal,” Perea said nonchalantly after her race. “It was my last [cross country] race ever, so it was a little bit different, it’s sad, but I’m excited at the same time, I guess it’s bittersweet.”

Estancia head cross country coach Adrienne Pierce added, “She fought, she deserved every bit of that [10th] place. It was a beautiful race to watch, she hasn’t ran in state since her freshman year, so it was really emotional to see.”

Schuett, who finished 13th out of 131 runners in the 4A boys race, was Moriarty’s top placer with a time of 17:13.99. He had to turn on the jets in the final 100 meters to beat a runner from Albuquerque’s Del Norte High School by 6/100 of a second.

“I just kept pushing myself. Honestly, one of the big motivators was these shoes, they’re like 250 dollars,” Schuett said, pointing to the running shoes that he said his coach loaned him. “He was like, ‘If you get a [time of] 17.10 or better, I’ll let you keep ‘em,’ and I was almost there, so it was a great way to end my last race.”

“That’s his best time in his whole career, he took off and ran his best race today, on his last career race,” Moriarty cross country head coach Nicholas Arellano said.

This marks the first time that Moriarty qualified an entire team under Arellano, who took the helm last year.

Herman Archibeque was Moriarty’s second-best boys runner, finishing 27th at 18:02.43, followed by brothers David and Bruno Vaquera, who finished 52nd and 68th, respectively. Tobias Olsen finished 71st to round out Moriarty’s top-5 finishers.

Kyndal Wiltbank and Ashtyn Walter, a freshman and an eighth grader, respectively, at Estancia Valley Classical Academy in Edgewood, competed as individual runners for Moriarty in the 4A girls race. It was their first time competing at state, with Wiltbank besting 99 other runners to finish 22nd with a personal-best time of 21:33.11.

“I really wanted to get to state and it was a really great experience,” Wiltbank said.

“A sixth-place finish from only bringing two runners last year as a boys roster is a good start for year two for me,” Arellano said, adding, “I’m very satisfied, we ran super, super hard, PRs up and down the table for all runners, this is a good stepping stone to keep building.”

In the Class 3A boys race, East Mountain’s Thomas Fabian paced the Timberwolves, coming in 25th place at 18:33.84 out of 90 total runners.

“I’m in a good mood, I’ll take it,” said Fabian, who moved to the East Mountains from Arizona over the summer. “I’m just having a good time, I’ve only been running for like three months, running isn’t my sport, but man is it fun.”

Gabe Case, who suffered a cramp in his leg during the back half of the race, still managed to crack the top-50, finishing 46th with a time of 19:39.4.

“It feels like someone is putting a dagger right in the middle of my calf,” Case said.

East Mountain’s other top-5 were Luis Escarcega, Bryson Naylor, and Andre LaJeunesse who all finished within eight seconds of each other at 74th, 75th, and 76th, respectively.

Kara Batie and Jessie Leibold finished 34th and 39th, respectively, for East Mountain in the 3A girls race.

“I’m definitely very proud of everybody for qualifying and getting here,” East Mountain’s head cross country coach Amira McKee said. “My goal for them this year was to make it to state, and they made it, and they showed up and they all ran well.”

Estancia had two boys in the biggest race of the meet, the Class 1A-2A boys race, with 160 total runners. Eighth grader Michael Johnson finished 70th and freshman Clay Hedges finished 139th. “They all did really, really well,” Pierce said. “There was 160 boys in that race, it was a huge race and they did really well. They all did awesome. I feel really good, it was a really good day.”