East Mountain’s Henry Dewey grabbed a third-place finish, multiple area runners scored personal records, and everyone was excited to be at the high school cross country state championships, March 26-27 at Albuquerque Academy.

It was the first New Mexico high school state championship of any kind since March 2020.

After a condensed, Covid-delayed season that got underway last month and concluded with district meets to determine who would qualify for state, no area high schools qualified entire teams for last weekend’s championships.

But six area runners—three from Moriarty, two from Estancia and one from East Mountain—qualified to run as individuals.

Individual runners compete against the best runners from around the state in their schools’ classifications.

“We didn’t think this season would even happen much less have a championship, so I got a little choked up as they were running,” Estancia cross country head coach Adrienne Pierce said about her runners after the Class 1A-2A races wrapped up the first day’s events.

East Mountain’s Henry Dewey finished with a bronze medal. Photo by Ger Demarest.

Dewey, a senior at East Mountain, powered his way through the Class 3A boys race that kicked off the March 26 competitions.

With 46 runners at the start of the race, Dewey paced among the top-5 the entire way. He was in third place after the first mile and slipped to fourth during the second mile. Once he entered the oval track that circles the Academy football field for the final 300 meters, he kicked into overdrive, passing a runner from Albuquerque’s Cottonwood Classical Prep with about 250 meters to go and held on to win the bronze medal with a time of 17 minutes, 21.15 seconds—a little more than a second and a half ahead of the CCP runner.

After the race, he said he didn’t remember passing the runner in front of him in the final stretch.

“No, not really, I don’t know, I just wanted to go as hard as possible,” Dewey said when asked what he recalled about his final kick. “I was just trying to catch up to Miller from NMMI, which I wasn’t able to do, but compared to the last two years competing at state, I’m quite happy.”

Dewey said he did hear his coach, Amira McKee, yelling encouragement to him down the final 100 meters.

“Oh, good, I’m working on my projection,” said McKee, who took over the team last month. “I just told him ‘You gotta sprint, you gotta go!’”

McKee said that Dewey ran a really smart race, adding, “He had the confidence he needed going into it and he did it.”

Due to the New Mexico Activities Association’s Covid-Safe protocols, there was no traditional podium for the top finishers to receive their medals. Dewey received his bronze medal on the football field along with the other top finishers–with everyone social-distancing.

Far right, Moriarty’s Ben McMurtrey crossing the finish line. Photo by Ger Demarest.

Moriarty’s two runners who qualified for the Class 4A boys race, Ben McMurtrey and Henry Schuett, ran among a field of 75 runners. McMurtrey clocked a 27th-place time of 18:16.08; Schuett finished a hair under 8 seconds behind McMurtrey at 29th in 18:24.01.

After the race, Moriarty’s head coach, Nicholas Arellano, greeted McMurtrey and Schuett with two-palmed high fives.

“Great job Ben! Thatta boy Henry! Low 18s, there we go!” Arellano said.

“I thought it was awesome, I came really close to my personal record,” McMurtrey said.

“I was just focusing on Ben, 100 percent,” Schuett added. “We were like right next to each other basically the entire race.”

In the 4A girls race, Moriarty sophomore Rebekah McMurtry finished 59th with a time of 26:24.38, shaving more than two minutes off her personal record, according to Arellano.

“It just feels amazing, I was shocked when I qualified for state,” Rebekah said. “I don’t think I could’ve done this without lots of people who helped me, like my coach and my mom and dad and my heavenly father.”

Moriarty’s Rebekah McMurtrey running with the pack at the start of the 4A girls race. Photo by Ger Demarest.

Arellano, who took the helm of Moriarty’s cross team in October, said he was “super pumped up” about his team’s performance.

“These guys ran extremely well,” Arellano said. “We’re building and next season starts in four months, so this is exciting.”

In the 1A-2A girls race, Estancia junior Mariana Sanchez clocked a personal record of 24:24.88 to finish in 31st place.

“I feel like I did a really good job,” Sanchez said. “It was a little different, I wish I had my teammates with me while I was running, but I am very grateful that I’m able to have this opportunity.”

One of Sanchez’ teammates, Jayde Perea—who won three of the regular-season meets and qualified for state—couldn’t run in the championship race because of an ankle injury.

“I was debating it all week and this morning I texted coach that I’d made the decision not to run, and she was like, ‘That’s fine, do you still wanna come with us?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah I do,’ so I’m glad I got to be here” Perea said.

“She was the best cheerleader,” Pierce said of Perea.

Estancia’s Raul Garcia battling for position in the final 200 meters of the 1A-2A boys race. Photo by Ger Demarest.

In the 1A-2A boys race, Estancia freshman Raul Garcia finished 38th with a time of 20:48.87.

“I feel like I did very well. It’s very different cuz of Covid-19, wearing the mask and everything, but honestly, I had a really great time,” Garcia said, adding, “I still have a lot to learn, and you never know, one day I might be taking first at state, so I’m very excited.”

Pierce said she was “very proud” of all her runners, and added: “I said to them, ‘No matter how you guys do, this wasn’t even supposed to happen, and it did, so we finished this wonky season and everybody did awesome.”