Changing District Alignments Bring New Rival For Sundevils
Morse Sports and Outdoors
By George Morse
The new district alignments in state high school sports for the 2016-2018 seasons were announced Nov. 20 by the New Mexico Activities Association. Local high schools will say goodbye to some of their former rivals in district competition and welcome new ones.
In some cases, old rivalries will be renewed. In others, traditional rivalries will no longer have the significance of district competition. New rivalries will emerge.
This week, the focus will be on Espanola Valley High School.
Espanola will remain in District 2-5A. Bernalillo will drop out of the district down to Class 4A, while Albuquerque Academy joins District 2-5A, which also includes Capital, Del Norte and Los Alamos.
The Sundevils and Academy have a history on the basketball court. In 2008, the Chargers knocked off Espanola in the then-Class 4A state semifinals. In 2010, the Sundevils defeated Academy in the semifinals on their way to the state championship game.
Academy has a history of producing quality basketball teams. The new district rivalry between Espanola and the Chargers should be a good one.
In football, the Chargers have historically had to deal with low numbers of players every year. They get the most out of what they have, but it’s hard to predict just how good they’ll be from year to year. The Chargers and Sundevils used to meet on a regular basis from 2001-2007 and Academy had a lot of success against the Sundevils then. It is tough to predict just how big an impact the Chargers will have in football, especially since Espanola has raised its level of play in this sport.
The sport where Academy’s entry into District 2-5A will have the most impact is in cross country. Since 1998, it has been either the Chargers or the Los Alamos Hilltoppers who have won the boys state cross country championship. Los Alamos has won the district title every year since 2000. Now Los Alamos and Academy will face each other for the district title, as well at state. Espanola will be fighting for third place in order to get to state.
It will be the same story in track and field. Academy has won 10 boys state championships since 2000. With Los Alamos also a strong track and field program, it’s going to be tough for Espanola athletes to qualify for the state track and field meet at the District 2-5A meet. They should focus on turning in state-qualifying times and distances before the district meet.
Academy fields strong baseball teams and they will likely contend for the District 2-5A title. The Chargers are a powerhouse in tennis and golf, which will make it harder for Espanola’s boys and girls teams to qualify for state in these two sports.
In Espanola’s girls sports, cross country and track and field will face the same challenges as the boys. Academy has had a good volleyball program recently and will likely be a factor in District 2-5A. In basketball, Los Alamos and Espanola still look like they’ll be the two strongest teams in the district. Academy is not known for softball and Bernalillo was, so Espanola’s chances of advancing to state may improve in this sport.
The addition of Academy to District 2-5A should raise the level of competition in most sports and promises to be exciting.