On a cool, clear, cloudless morning, hundreds of student-athletes came together to run, jump, and throw at the second annual Pedro and Mateo Sandoval Memorial track and field meet, March 19 at Moriarty High School.
It was an emotional day for many and a victorious outing for the host school. Boosted by plenty of powerhouse performances—particularly in the relays—Moriarty’s boys’ and girls’ squads made it a team sweep as the girls took first place with 146.5 overall points and the boys won with 142.
“This is a meet that means a little more than some, just because of who it honors,” Moriarty’s head coach Peter Romero said. “We came out and we competed very well, we ran a lot of great times, and that’s all you can ask for.”
The event, which is Moriarty’s first home meet of the season, included athletes from five separate schools, including Estancia. The meet is named in honor of two Moriarty student-athletes, Pedro and Mateo Sandoval, who died in a car accident in January of 2020.
Prior to the meet, an opening ceremony paid tribute to the Sandoval brothers and was attended by their parents, Lexi and Ernie Sandoval.
“It’s so awesome,” Lexi Sandoval said. “We’re so excited for all of them and they’re out there running in honor of the boys so that’s really special.”
“You know, the number of kids that have come out, it just impresses us,” Ernie Sandoval added. “The turnout for the team is higher than it’s been in a long time so we’re really happy to see that.”
Moriarty’s Nicole Wells took the top spot in both the girls long jump and the triple jump. She also helped Moriarty’s 4×200-meter relay team take first place.
“Honestly, it’s pretty emotional but I use that emotion to push myself and to try as hard as I can,” Wells said. “We all have our ups and downs, but we really use this meet to push ourselves.”
Moriarty’s other top girls finishers included Julia Casey, who placed second in both the 100m and the 200m races, and second in the girls long jump; Kyndal Wiltbank finished second in the 1,600m run; Casey ran the second leg and Wiltbank anchored Moriarty’s first-place finish in the 1,600m sprint-medley relay race; Loralyn “Roo” Schmutz placed second and Presley Edwards placed third in the girls javelin; Lila Lionbarger and Evalinn Volk tied for second place in the girls pole vault.
“I’ve had the funnest time with pole vaulting because the adrenaline is crazy and when you clear those big heights you feel amazing,” said Lionbarger.
Lionbarger, a senior soccer standout who hasn’t done track since her freshman year, also took second place in the 100m hurdles. She said track is harder than soccer because everyone is competing on an individual level.
“The points we get collectively help the team, but you are the only one finishing the race, you’re the only one crossing the finish line,” Lionbarger said. “The reward is greater than soccer, absolutely, because you’ve done it all yourself.”
Moriarty’s girls relay teams topped off the day by taking second place in both the 4x100m and 4x400m races.
On Moriarty’s boys’ side, Henry Schuett won the 1,600m run, with teammate Herman Archibeque coming in second. Moriarty had four of the top five finishers in the race.
Moriarty also had four of the top five finishers in the 3,200m run, led by Tobias Olson who took second place.
In a close finish, Isaac Dominguez took second place in the 300m hurdles, less than a half second behind the winner from St. Mike’s.
Moriarty won the boys 4x800m relay uncontested.
“There were other teams entered but they scratched, so we ended up running it by ourselves, but we did run a state-qualifying time so that was a great start,” Romero said.
“We set a school record as well,” added Joe Bailey, who is back from retirement and coaching some of the runners.
When asked about honoring Pedro and Mateo Sandoval, Bailey got noticeably choked up and said, “The Sandoval boys—are why you coach.”
Moriarty’s other relay teams also had a big day, winning the 4x100m, the 4x200m, the 4x400m, and the 1,600m sprint-medley.
Some other notable performances included placing five of the top six in the pole vault with David Vaquera winning the top spot; Josh Montoya took first place in the discus throw and third place in javelin; Jonathan Beukelman placed third in the triple jump.
Estancia, the smallest school competing, only brought part of its team due to scheduling conflicts with some of its athletes, but head coach Eric Lucero said he was basically satisfied with the performance from his team members who were able to participate.
“It’s our first meet, we’ve only had a few days of practices, so you can see the rust coming off,” Lucero said, adding, “Some of our throwers looked really promising, but we just gotta get into shape, now we know what we’ve gotta work on.”
Estancia’s top performers were Levi Burelsmith, who took second in boys shot put, and Ja’ Brae Boyer, who placed third in boys high jump.
With last year’s track and field season delayed due to Covid, the Sandoval Memorial was Moriarty’s first home track meet in March since 2019.
“Last year in March we were doing soccer and football,” said Moriarty athletic director Joe Anaya. “To actually have this event going on now, it’s awesome, it’s amazing to be back—and Peter’s done a really good job of getting kids out for track, he’s made it fun.”
The “fun” element was clear to athletes like Lionbarger, who said, “I’m having a good time, I’m getting stronger, faster, and you know, just making memories, that’s what I’m here to do.”