Mora senior overcomes steep, long hill to win 5th meet.
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Story by James Barron. Courtesy of The New Mexican
. Photo by: Luis Sanchez Saturno | The New Mexican

COCHITI PUEBLO — The “Wake-Up Call” came quickly and mercilessly on Saturday morning.

The most distinct feature of the 5-kilometer course laid out for Santa Fe Indian School’s John Grimley Memorial Invitational cross country meet was the hill that led the runners up to the perimeter fence of Santo Domingo Elementary School.

The sharply graded incline — and that was the only way the runners saw it — unleashed its pain not just once, but twice, and garnered its moniker by SFIS head coach Jon Tafoya.

But Alonzo Chavez welcomed the pain.

In fact, he needed it.

In the Mora senior’s quest to show he is the best runner in the state, he needed to feel the burn in his lungs and his body.

It helped produce a winning time on the boys side of 16 minutes, 21 seconds — his fifth straight win after a third place at The University of New Mexico invite to open the season.

Chavez already made the outcome moot after the first half-mile, but his biggest foe was that hill that he climbed at about the mile mark and returned to for the final half-mile back to the school. The challenge wasn’t just in the size of the hill.

“It was not only the steepest hill I’ve run, it is the longest,” Chavez said. “I walked the course, and I said, ‘This is going to be really hard.’ But when I ran it, it was even harder than I thought it was going to be.”

Yet, it is nothing compared to the shadow he is chasing. It’s the one cast by Rio Rancho Cleveland’s Luis Martinez, who won the UNM meet and has not been beaten by a New Mexican in two seasons. So Chavez embraced his “Wake-Up Call,” if it means he can best Martinez.

“He is not only ranked in the state, he is ranked in the nation,” Chavez said. “And just seeing him twice a year [the two will run in the Rio Rancho Jamboree in two weeks], gets me to want to race him even more.”

Ah, the Rio Rancho Jamboree. The highlight of the regular season is looming, because it is run on the same track that the state championships will be run on in November and serves as an indicator of what might come.

Class AA schools Pecos and Mora didn’t need to wait that long to see that Laguna-Acoma’s boys runs in another zip code.

The two-time state champion Hawks dominated the meet as four runners finished in the top 16, on their way to a 68-point total.

Pecos, the two-time runner-up, was eighth overall at 199, and Mora placed 12th with 289.

Meanwhile, it seems that every week brings a different answer in AAA.

On the girls side, SFIS (119 points) prevailed in a tight battle over Albuquerque Sandia Preparatory (122) and Shiprock (133). Even though Sandia Prep took first (Rachel Fleddermann) and third (Hannah Grober), third runner Brook Armijo crossed the line in 30th. In between Grober and Armijo were five Lady Braves, starting with Jordin Aguilar in 14th.

The Lady Braves’ tight pack was the difference, as was perhaps the home course advantage.

Teams started in the open field in the school and ran toward a narrow path obstructed by a backstop after about 100 yards. Teams on the right and left sides at the starting line were in a race for more than just position.

“You had to manage getting out [of the blocks], but you didn’t want to get backed up because the course is narrow and you can’t pass anybody for a while,” said Lenny Gurule, St. Michael’s head coach, whose girls were a victim of that and took fifth. “It was just managing the course over the first part of the race and hoping everything worked out for us.”

As for the individual battles, Taos’ Haley Rach bounced back from a week-and-a-half absence from a sore back and took fourth, outhustling Lady Horsemen Jordyn Romero for the spot.

Rach blamed the back problem on her bed, which she corrected, but was thankful to get back to chasing down rival Fleddermann.

But Romero proved to be more of challenger, as she snuck up on Rach after Grober passed her for third.

“I was like, ‘Where did she come from?’” Rach said of Grober. “And then, I heard [breathing] behind me and I was like, ‘Jordyn?’ And then she got in front of me and I told myself she wasn’t going to beat me!”

As for her “Wake-Up Call?”

“In Taos, that’s what we do,” Rach said. “On our easy days are hills. Our hard days are hills. Our mile repeats are hills. So, hills are what we do.”


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