Even East Mountain High School’s distance runners find the annual Nick Martin Memorial Invite a challenge, and it’s their course.

At the Sept. 29 cross country meet in Sandia Park, host East Mountain High’s Marissa Case and Amelia Johnson finished in the top-10 of the girls varsity race to power the Lady Timberwolves to a third-place team finish.

Estancia High’s Jaimey Fastnacht also finished in the top 10.

Jaimey Fastnacht’s second pass up the hill.

The 5K race begins and ends on the soccer field at Vista Grande Community Complex adjacent to the high school, and includes two laps around a 1.5-mile trail that meanders through the forest behind the high school and the community center with a long, uphill climb near the end.

At the start of the girls varsity race that comprised 78 runners, Fastnacht was among the leaders of the pack.

During the first lap through the woods, East Mountain’s Case took charge and had a 5-second cushion as she climbed the hill, with Fastnacht pacing around sixth place.

But the second time around, a pair of runners from Hope Christian had overtaken Case and she ended up finishing third overall with a time of 22:29.

“My goal’s always to go all out as hard as I can,” Case said. “By the end, I just wanted to finish because it’s hard and I hate our course because it’s really hilly.”

Coming up the hill on the second lap, a runner who was ahead of Fastnacht stepped off the trail to throw up, and Fastnacht scuttled past her.

“I saw her stop and pull over to the side and I was like, ‘This is my chance, I gotta take it,’” Fastnacht said, adding, “That hill is just straight up for like a half mile—I would’ve liked to have done better but I’m happy with the outcome of my race.”

Fastnacht finished fifth with a time of 22:53.

East Mountain’s Johnson finished sixth overall at 22:57.43. Teammates Kara Batie and Marianna Sanchez finished 15th and 16th, respectively, to help the Lady Timberwolves’ overall score of 67.

East Mountain’s girls score was just 2 points behind second-place Cottonwood Classical Prep. Hope Christian took first with 43 points.

Estancia didn’t have the required five runners on either the girls or boys teams to officially score.

East Mountain also didn’t have enough for an official boys team.

But East Mountain freshman Gabe Case did finish 19th in the boys varsity race out of a field of 89 runners, with a time of 20:03.

“I thought we had a good day today,” East Mountain head coach Dave Naylor said. “The kids managed the course well and it’s a very physical course.”

East Mountain’s Marissa Case traversing the hill at the Nick Martin Memorial Invite. Photo by G. Demarest.

Estancia head coach Adrienne Pierce said she also thought her runners did “pretty darn good for this course,” noting that a couple of them, particularly Fastnacht, really stepped up.

“She made a lot of smart moves and powered up that hill,” Pierce said.

The top middle school runners from the area, in the 1.5-mile race that followed the varsity and JV events, were Roosevelt Middle’s Ansley MacGregor finishing 4th, and Jesse Liegold, 6th. Estancia Middle School’s Alana Sosa finished 11th.

This year’s Nick Martin meet had fewer schools participating than in years past but was still sizable with 18 schools and more than 200 runners.

Now in its 14th year, the annual cross country meet was renamed in 2010 in honor of Nick Martin, an EMHS runner who passed away in April of that year at the age of 16.