Santa Fe High’s Noel Prandoni has breakthrough race.
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Story by James Barron. Courtesy of The New Mexican
. Photo by: Luis Sanchez Saturno | The New Mexican

Noel Prandoni was a runner searching for answers.

The past two weeks, the Santa Fe High junior was on the cusp of a cross country win, with second- and fifth-place finishes at the Taos Invitational and the Albuquerque West Mesa meet.

Her search for that elusive victory ended Saturday, and what better place than at her team’s own Capital City Invitational. Prandoni ran the 3.1-mile course in 19 minutes, 31.19 seconds at the Municipal Recreation Complex, outpacing Los Alamos’ Teresa Sandoval by more than 27 seconds.

The boys’ was a much tighter race, as Pojoaque Valley’s Jereme Santistevan clipped Zach Grand of Santa Fe High, 16:11.38 to 16:18.21 for the individual win.

While the stopwatch indicated an easy win, Prandoni’s mind wondered who was coming to steal her moment.

“I was so scared,” Prandoni said. “Yeah, I was so scared. I thought somebody was going to come and take it away.”

It never happened. Prandoni raced to the front right after the starter’s pistol fired and steadily pulled away. Her head coach, Peter Graham, said Prandoni spent the past couple of weeks figuring out how to get over that hump.

“It’s significant because it’s a validation for all the hard work you put in and that you can actually win those races,” Graham said. “Instead of thinking, ‘Oh, it’s so-and-so, they should be beating me.’ So, to have that breakthrough is significant for her to continue on down the road this season.”

While Sandoval was the distant shadow to Prandoni’s pace, teammate Greta Miller posed a greater threat in Prandoni’s mind. The two have been engaged in a friendly battle as the Demonettes’ No. 1 runner, and Miller beat Prandoni in Albuquerque, taking fourth.

“That race was hard, and we went the wrong direction and had to get back on course,” Prandoni said. “It was really crazy. Greta stepped on some glass, and she was picking it out and her hands were all bloody. It was so crazy.”

Miller was a distant fourth at 20:30, as she nursed a sore calf. Los Alamos, which brought its B squad since the A team was at the Desert Twilight meet in Arizona on Friday, won the team event with 25 points. Santa Fe High was second with 47.

The boys race was a two-man battle between Santistevan and Grand, as they separated themselves from the rest of the pack within the first half-mile. In the two previous meets the two have met (at the Taos and UNM invites), Grand held the upper hand (second at Taos to Santistevan’s third; 16th at UNM to a 42nd for Santistevan).

Grand looked to have the upper hand again, as he towed Santistevan along through the first two miles.

“I have a hard time at starting,” Grand said. “He’s really good at it. I was just trying to run my own race, and if he’s with me, I try to push him with me.”

The roles reversed, though, as Santistevan showed a much stronger kick. It was especially evident the last 500 yards of the meet, as the junior slowly pulled away for a slightly more comfortable margin and his second straight win. Santistevan won the Bosque Fall Fiesta last week.

“He beat me at Taos by about 15 to 20 seconds, so I knew he was a good runner,” Santistevan said. “I just gave it all I could to stay ahead.”

Behind Santistevan was a pack of Elks, helping win the team title easily with 19 points.

After Grand’s second, Pojoaque took the next four spots. While Santistevan was more than a minute ahead of teammate Derrick Grasnick, the other four scorers ran within 27 seconds of each other. A sixth, Matthew Herrera, was 10 seconds behind that group.

It’s that type of pack running that will be crucial to Pojoaque’s success in defending its Class AAA state title.

“We’re training to pack, and we’re training to move up,” Pojoaque head coach Allan Lockridge said. “And our boys do not run four or five together — they’re running 12 to 14 together [at practice]. That’s our objective, and we’re starting to do that.”

On a day when runners were finding answers to their questions, Pojoaque’s response was the best yet.

 

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