McCurdy Athletes Bring Back The Gold

by Staff Reporter / May 09, 2017 / comments

McCurdy 4x200 relay State Champs on the podium. Photo courtesy of John Denne

McCurdy Athletes Bring Back The Gold

By George Morse Sports and Outdoors

Northern New Mexico was well-represented at the 2017 Class A-3A state track and field meet May 5-6 at the Great Friends of UNM track and field facilities in Albuquerque. Athletes from McCurdy Charter School, Escalante High School and Mesa Vista High School took their place atop the awards podium to receive their reward for weeks and even years of hard work and dedication to their sport and their school.

McCurdy track and field Coach Cecil Brown’s roots at McCurdy go back to when he was a member of the 1962 Bobcats’ football team that went down south and beat Melrose High School 19-0 to win the then Class C state football championship. After serving in the military and returning to Española, Brown has been coaching at McCurdy for 30 years, serving as an assistant and head coach for track and field, football and even cross country. In all that time, he’d never had a relay team take first place at state.

This year, McCurdy’s 800 (4x200)-meter relay team of seniors Marcos Gonzales and Jayson Bustos, along with sophomores Ernesto Martinez and Gabriel Huerta, turned in the fastest time in the preliminary round May 5 and were the favorites in the finals May 6. There would be added pressure on the team. Bustos, who ran the third 200-meter leg of the relay, would be running in the 800-meter run May 6 just over 30 minutes before competing in the relay. Could Bustos and the Bobcats, in their first season since moving up from Class 2A to Class 3A, beat the likes of traditional track and field heavyweights like Texico High School, Dexter High School, Santa Rosa High School and others and finally win the elusive gold medal. The Bobcats had come close before. A dropped baton on the final exchange likely cost them the title last year in the 400 (4X100)-meter relay.

Gonzales ran the opening 200-meter leg for McCurdy. A veteran who had known the disappointment of past seasons, Gonzales ran his typically strong opening leg, keeping the Bobcats even with the field in the staggered-start.

“We held the stagger the entire 200 yards,” Gonzales said. “It seemed like we all handed off at the same time.”

Gonzales gave the baton to Martinez, who kept the Bobcats at the front before handing the baton to Bustos. Could he keep the Bobcats near the top despite running the 800-meter run just 30 minutes ago?

McCurdy’s Ernesto Martinez hands off to Jayson Bustos in the 800-meter relay. McCurdy took first place. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

“My teammates never doubted I could do it,” Bustos said. “They all still trusted me.”

Bustos held off the challenge and gave the baton to Huerta, who would run the anchor leg. With Texico and Dexter runners breathing down his neck and right alongside him, the three teams came out of the curve practically in a dead heat in front of the cheering fans in the spectator bleachers.

McCurdy’s Gabriel Huerta, Texico’s Craig Ray and Dexter’s Connor Downs race towards the finish line in the 800-meter relay. McCurdy took first place. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

“It was painful, the crowd gave me the adrenaline,” Huerta said. “Coming out of the curve, I jumped into the third lane. In the middle of the (final) straightaway we were even. I just gave it all I had.”

At the finish line, Huerta, Dexter’s Connor Downs and Texico’s Craig Ray were so close all eyes went to the scoreboard for the final results. McCurdy had taken first place with a time of one minute, 33.92 seconds. Just .07 seconds in second was Dexter. Texico was third .02 seconds behind Dexter. Less than a tenth of a second separated the top three teams.

McCurdy’s Gabriel Huerta crosses the finish line in front of Dexter’s Connor Downs and Texico’s Craig to win the 800-meter relay at the Class a-3A state track and field meet May 6 in Albuquerque.Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

The Bobcats hugged each other and celebrated the long-sought-after victory.

“I’ve been for this for five years,” Gonzales said. “It seemed like something always happened. It’s just amazing to finally have it happen.”

Photo courtesy of John Denne

Coach Brown, along with his daughter Cecilia, who coaches McCurdy’s girls track and field team, joined in the celebration.

McCurdy Coach Cecilia Brown (left), Jayson Bustos, Marcos Gonzales, Gabriel Huerta, Ernesto Martinez and Coach Cecil Brown celebrate McCurdy’s victory in the 800-meter relay. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

“For 30 years I’ve been trying to get one,” Coach Cecil Brown said. “I’m very proud of my team. Proud of all my kids. My 4X1 didn’t click. The 4X2 finally started coming around at the NRG (Northern Rio Grande track and field meet). Jayson (Bustos), Marcos (Gonzales) have been with me since the eighth grade. I’m proud of those two kids. It was a tough year, with broken collar bones, pulled hamstrings. 3A is tough. We beat all those tough teams.”

Compilation of the last seconds of the incredibly close race. Photos courtesy of John Denne

McCurdy track and field coach Cecil Brown gives Gabriel Huerta a big hug after the Bobcats won the 800-meter relay. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

Champions! McCurdy’s Marcos Gonzales (left, standing), Jayson Bustos, Gabriel Huerta (left, sitting) and Ernesto Martinez celebrate the Bobcats victory in the 800-meter relay on the awards podium. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post