Two of Moriarty’s top cross country coaches recently departed the program, but assistant coach Nicholas Arellano—the team’s last remaining coach—is determined to keep the offseason workouts going forward and the runners engaged.

“I’m really just trying to keep the team together,” Arellano said. “For now, it’s mostly about keeping the kids in a routine.”

Arellano resumed Moriarty’s offseason cross country workouts this week after the team’s head coach, Tommy Negrete, parted ways with the school Oct. 12. The team’s other assistant coach, Loren Riblett, stepped down a few days after Negrete.

According to Moriarty’s athletic director, Joe Anaya, Negrete left partially because of the state’s public health order, along with the numerous changes from the New Mexico Activities Association regarding the high school sports’ Covid-19 guidelines.

But the main reason was the NMAA’s postponing of the cross country season to the spring semester.

Anaya said neither Negrete nor Riblett could coach during the spring semester because of previous plans.

“The schedule change had a lot to do with it,” Anaya said, adding, “Loren is retiring this December from his other job and the free time in the spring is going to allow him to start a new adventure with his family.”

Negrete and Riblett had been involved with the Pintos’ cross country team for the better part of the past decade. Negrete started coaching in 2011. Riblett began coaching a few years later when his daughter, Olivia, started running for the team.

“It’s tough, they’ve been here a long time, they got the kids to buy into the program and did a good job with the kids they had,” Anaya said, adding, “We now have to replace two coaches and it’s gonna have to happen fairly soon.”

Arellano, who graduated from Moriarty in 2015 and ran cross country under both Negrete and Riblett, is an assistant coach on the team as well as an assistant with the football and basketball teams.

“I’ve known those guys for a good while,” Arellano said of Negrete and Riblett. “It was a pleasure competing for them and working with them.”

Arellano said he hopes that by continuing the offseason workouts, the team’s runners won’t lose the progress they made since summer. “We were doing weekly time trials and we were seeing kids dropping times, some of them by a couple of minutes—the improvements were there,” Arellano said.

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Moriarty cross country runners Jayden Lucero (Right) and Jonathan Beukelman running along Center Ave. during a workout on Oct. 29. Photo by Ger Demarest.

One of Moriarty’s runners, Jayden Lucero, said losing Negrete and Riblett is just one more challenge on top of everything the kids have gone through.

“This year, it’s all been adding up,” Lucero said. “I hope we come back to, like, an actual season [in February], but it is what it is—I like how we’re trying to make the most of it.”

Arellano said he would like to be the team’s next head coach and will apply for the position, but for now, he is organizing the workouts, keeping the runners in separate pods four days a week, and rolling with the punches.

“The success of all of our programs comes from putting in the time,” Arellano said. “I’m just trying to adapt to everything, and make sure that we’re ready to go when the season starts.”

The cross country season is tentatively scheduled to start Feb. 15.

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.