Battling chilly temps and a brisk wind, competitors from seven high schools faced off at the Moriarty Qualifier track and field meet, March 23 at Moriarty High School.

Class 4A’s Moriarty and Taos high schools finished among the top in team scores, but area coaches said winning a meet this early in the season is not the main objective.

“It doesn’t matter,” East Mountain High’s head track coach Phil Keller said. “It’s more about qualifying, it’s more about progress.”

At the Moriarty Qualifier—and throughout the season—some athletes compete in multiple events while others focus on one individual event. But the ultimate goal for all competitors is qualifying for the high school state championships in May.

Individuals must reach or exceed minimum standard times or distances to qualify for state. The NMAA sets the qualifying standards, which vary by a school’s classification.

Moriarty’s Ashley Strader airborne in the long jump. Photos by G. Demarest.

It was East Mountain’s third meet of the season, and the Timberwolves and Santa Fe’s St. Michael’s High School were the only Class 3A schools competing. Pojoaque Valley and Belen were the other 4A high schools. Estancia High was the only Class 2A school, and it was the Bears’ first meet of the season.

One of Estancia’s coaches, Travis Watts, said the Moriarty Qualifier was “a nice little warm up.”

Estancia’s Drayton Oberg and Brian Walker both inched their way past the boys Class 2A qualifying standards. Walker’s time of 43.48 seconds qualified him by a few tenths of a second in the 300-meter hurdles, and Oberg’s javelin throw of 146 feet, 5 inches qualified him by 5 inches.

“Things went really well,” Estancia coach Stewart Burnett said. “It was a very solid start.”

East Mountain’s Marissa Case qualified in the 3,200-meter run with a time of 12 minutes, 31.27 seconds, more than 6 seconds under the girls 3A standard of 12:38.

The meet was Moriarty’s third of the season, and track coach Joe Bailey acknowledged that getting better and getting qualified are bigger achievements than winning individual events.

“That’s the best thing about track, we’re competing against the stopwatch and the tape measure more than we are against other people,” Bailey said.

Moriarty’s Sowelu Lottimer and Hope Bennett both qualified in the pole vault competition. Bennett met the 4A standard of 8 feet, 6 inches, and Lottimer hit 9-6. Lottimer had already qualified with a height of 10-3 on March 9 at the Los Lunas Invite.Moriarty’s Ashley Strader—who said she just went out for track the day before the Moriarty meet—qualified in the high jump by hitting the standard height of 5 feet. Michael Quinton qualified in shot put with a toss of 47 feet, .5 inch.