It took Marissa Case four years to make it to the biggest stage in high school cross country, and after finishing fourth in the girls Class 3A race at the state championships, the East Mountain senior finally got to climb the podium.
“I just wanted to go for it, and when I say go for it, I mean finish in the top 10 because it was my goal to podium in cross country and I haven’t yet, until today,” Case said.
Case’s performance helped East Mountain take eighth place in the 3A girls’ team standings, East Mountain resident Abby Clark helped Manzano High’s girls’ team in 5A, and multiple runners from Moriarty and Estancia high schools turned in impressive performances at the cross country state championships, Nov. 9 at Rio Rancho High School.
In the 3A girls’ race, the first race of the day, Case paced herself near the front of the pack for the first mile and inched into third place at one point before receding to fifth after the second mile.
As Case entered the football stadium and hit the final 100-yard stretch, she turned on the jets to take fourth place with a time of 20:02, a hair more than a second behind Zuni’s third-place finisher.
“It was a really fast race and I just kept with it,” Case said, adding, “I’m really happy, this is my best finish in state cross country.”
East Mountain freshman Jessie Leibold finished 19th, and teammates Natalya Villescas, Ashley Sesnie, and Ciara Wright grabbed the 46th, 48th, and 61st spots, respectively, for the team.
“For the kids that we had this year I think we made tremendous progress,” East Mountain’s head coach Dave Naylor said. “They ran pretty darn good races.”
Abby Clarke finished 29th to help the Lady Monarchs take 13th place as a team in the Class 5A girls’ competition.
In the Class 1A-2A competitions, Estancia High School had no boys’ or girls’ teams, but the Bears’ individual runners ran impressive races that were neck-and-neck at the finish line.
Freshman Alana Sosa, the only Estancia girl competing, finished 42nd in a field of 120 runners. She hit the football field in a cluster of runners and had just enough kick to finish seven-tenths of a second ahead of a girl from Oak Grove Classical Academy, and a little under a second behind a runner from Newcomb.
“I ran my heart out,” Sosa said. “I really had to dig deep to pass one of them but I did it.”
In the 1A-2A boys’ race—the largest race of the day with a field of 154 runners—Estancia eighth-grader Raul Garcia also had a close finish, beating a runner from Oak Grove by less than half a second to come in 67th; Bears senior Lars Pottle finished 116th.
“I think they did really well,” Estancia head coach Adrienne Pierce said. “Alana’s a cheerleader, she went to the [Bears football] Fort Sumner game and got back around midnight and still ran well. Raul’s only an eighth-grader so I’m really excited to have four more years with him. It was a good day.”
Moriarty High also didn’t have boys’ or girls’ teams, but Domniarrre “Mimi” Notah and Chelsea Stiverson ran the 4A girls’ race, and Ovedio Lujan and Romello Dominguez ran the boys’ race.
Notah turned in a 57th place finish, and Stiverson came in 103rd.
“I think I ran really good,” Notah said. “This course is very challenging due to the sand and hills.”
Notah was referring to the three-mile course which winds around the school’s campus, through the parking lot in front of the football stadium, behind the stadium up and down sandy hills, and around a few practice soccer fields before hitting a short strip of pavement and finally the artificial turf of the football field.
Lujan, who finished 61st, took a fall on the last strip of pavement before the football field, skinning his shoulder, forearm and leg.
“I just got back up, the adrenaline of falling actually helped me,” he said.
Dominguez finished 115th.
East Mountain did not have any boys compete at the state championships; Mountainair High had no girls or boys compete.
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.