By Ger Demarest
High school cross country is off and running.
Moriarty and East Mountain high schools are sporting new head coaches, while Estancia’s Adrienne Pierce returns for her ninth season at the helm.
“Coach Arellano left, and I just wanted to keep the continuity of the program,” Wiltbank said about stepping into the head coach position. “And I’ve got two kids on the team, too, so that doesn’t hurt either.”
Wiltbank’s son Devin is a freshman on the boys team. His daughter, Kyndal, is the captain of the girls team. She was Moriarty’s top finisher at the 2022 Class 4A girls state championship.
Kyndal Wiltbank said her top goals this year are to shave 30 seconds off last year’s time and to continue bonding with her teammates.
“We’ve grown a lot closer, not only as runners but as friends,” she said. “We’ve been pushing each other, like, ‘Hey, you can keep up, you got this.’”
Coach Wiltbank said the girls team has a lot of talented runners and has the potential to be better than last year’s squad, which qualified the 4A state championship for the first time in more than a decade and posted a seventh-place team finish.
The coach said his philosophy is basically the same as the previous coach, with “a few tweaks here and there.”
The focus will be on speed training and have the kids run more miles than in years past, he said.
“We’re really upping the mileage and building on our depth,” coach Wiltbank said. “We have a lot of good runners, we have Bruno Vaquera coming back, and Danny’s our boys team captain, he’s one of our best runners, so I’m excited about the season.”
Wiltbank was referring to Daniel Gonzales.
“My No. 1 goal is to run a 17-minute [race] by the time we get to state, and I just want to be the best version of myself that I can be,” Gonzales said.
As the boys’ captain, Gonzales said he wants to help his teammates“have a positive mindset every day, to believe in themselves.”
Moriarty’s first meet was Aug. 26 at Cleveland High School, and though the girls team was missing some runners, coach Wiltbank said, “the boys team looked awesome.”
Komensky said he has 23 total runners, six of them are girls and the rest are boys.
“Things are looking good,” Komensky said.“We have a strong team, everyone’s motivated, and as a coach, that makes it the best it can possibly be.”
Verity Gray is the captain of the girls team and “is doing excellent,” he said, adding the Timberwolves top finisher at last year’s 3A girls state championship from last season, Ruth Trullinger, also is back.
“Looking forward to seeing what she can do as well,” Komensky said.
On the boys side, Komensky said he has a solid core of five key contributors: Andre LaJeunesse, the team captain and East Mountain’s top finisher at last year’s state meet; Hayden Villescas, Skylar Reilly, Wyatt Shelton, and Komensky’s son, Joshua.
“I think they will be competitive, so I’m excited to see how it all pans out on the points,” Komensky said.
The Timberwolves kick off the season tonight at Albuquerque Academy.
“I’ve never had this many,” Pierce said. “This is the first time in a while that I’ve had a full boys team and a full girls team.”
The Bears kicked off the season Aug. 26 in Capitan, and Pierce said the meet “went really well, adding, “I have a lot of kiddos that are hard workers.”
Pierce said she has no seniors on either squad. Michael Johnson, who was the Bears’ top finisher at last year’s 1A/2A boys state championship, didn’t meet eligibility requirements.
Steve Barella is her top runner, she said, and Clay Hedges also is back.
On the girls side, Pierce thinks Jhenna Valencia, the Lady Bears’ top finisher at last year’s state meet, will perform well again this year, and Lindsey Otis is poised to have a breakout season.
“This is her third year with me,” Pierce said of Otis. “She’s looked good in practice and has a good mindset.”
Pierce said she thinks both the boys and girls will qualify for state, “and both teams have the potential to be top three or four at districts.”
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