Enduring wet conditions at a backup course, East Mountain High’s Alex Heffelfinger and Addison Rauch won their individual races while several teammates finished strong to help the school’s boys and girls cross country teams claim their third consecutive district titles last Friday.

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East Mountain’s Addison Rauch crossing the finish line nearly 2 minutes ahead of all other runners. Photo by G. Demarest.

Rauch easily won her race with a time of 20:17 out of a field of 36 runners.

Heffelfinger won the boys race with a time of 17:30 out of a field of 47 runners.

The District 3/4-4A meet was moved to Wildlife West Nature Park in Edgewood after rain had rendered East Mountain’s course in Sandia Park unusable. “I told the other coaches we had to come up with a Plan B and this was it,” said Dave Naylor, East Mountain’s head coach and athletic director.

Naylor said Wildlife West was a better option than Sandia Park but the course was quite soaked and slippery for the runners.

“It was hard to get my traction,” Rauch said. “The mud really threw things off.”

With a steady rain falling at the start of the girls race, Naylor huddled his runners and said, “Watch your feet, don’t run through any puddles.”

But it was hard to avoid a large puddle a few hundred yards beyond the starting point. One girl from Silver cried out, “This sucks!” as she splashed through the water.

Rauch led the pack from the start and was all alone at the finish, winning by 1:50, her fourth consecutive victory.

Four other Lady T’Wolves finished in the Top 10: Ella Chavez finished second; Rubie Trotter, Abbigail Weisberg and Christina Sirchai finished seventh, ninth, and 10th, respectively. “This is definitely the highest I’ve ever placed,” said Chavez.

The girls team girls took first place out of six schools with a score of 24 points.

The rain stopped for the boys race and Heffelfinger led the entire way, while his

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East Mountain’s Dave Naylor, center, flanked by Laci Lockwood and Phil Keller with their District 3/4 Coach of the Year awards. Photo by G. Demarest.

teammate Isiah Padilla finished 20 seconds behind him.

“I’m extremely happy,” Heffelfinger said. “I thought it was fun—I’m ecstatic Isiah took second.”

“I feel pretty good, I was hoping to be closer to Alex, but…” Padilla said with a shrug.

East Mountain’s other Top 10 boys were Ben Humphries finishing seventh and Sean Dwyer at eighth. The T’Wolves took first place out of the six schools, beating second-place Silver by 39 points.

The 5K, or 3.1-mile course, meandered around Wildlife West over hill and muddy dale, behind the elk habitat, over a good-sized ditch, and past the bird sanctuary. “That ditch was like, oh my God, worse than I imagined,” Heffelfinger said.

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Alex Heffelfinger passing the bird sanctuary at Wildlife West during the boys race. Photo by G. Demarest.

East Mountain’s Danny Hund, who said he fell “in the first 100 meters,” sat on a chair with both knees bleeding after finishing 26th.

District 3’s Hatch Valley and Hot Springs high schools, and District 4’s Portales, don’t participate in cross country, so the two districts are currently merged into District 3/4-4A.

The district meet wraps up the regular season and determines which runners qualify for the Nov. 7 state championships.

“It’s not just another race,” Naylor said. “You have to perform well enough to go on.”

Winning the district titles also earned Naylor, and his assistant coaches Phil Keller and Laci Lockwood, the District 3/4 Coach of the Year awards.

Ger Demarest
Ger Demarest

Ger has been writing and shooting photos of high school sports for The Independent for 15 years. His dedication to youth athletics goes beyond sports reporting. He is past president of East Mountain Little League and works as a baseball umpire. He lives in Edgewood with his family.