Coach Annabelle Ortiz-Almager runs with her team at a summer practice. Valley Daily Post image
Coach/Board Secretary Leads EVHS Girls Cross
By ROBERT A. NARANJO
Valley Daily Post
EL LLANO – When it comes to a goal, Coach Annabelle Ortiz-Almager’s girl’s cross-country team has the top to shoot for. EVHS has an individual NMAA Girls Cross-Country State Champion in its history when its current coach bested all girls division cross-country runners in 1988 to emerge as State AAAA Champion that year.
That individual championship was the first for any EVHS runner in State history and only 3 years later, the girl’s cross-country team won it all with a Girls Cross-Country State Championship in 1991, the first EVHS team to do so in any sport. Both the team and individual championships were won during Coach Lawrence Naranjo’s tenure. Neither feat has been repeated since by an EVHS cross-country team or individual, however, the boys’ basketball program snagged a state championship in 2O11, about 2O years later!
EVHS ’92 AAAA State Champions Girls Cross Country. Coach Naranjo on left, Coach Danny Bustos on right. Courtesy image
The classifications have changed twice since both of those championships and EVHS is no longer in New Mexico’s biggest school classification, which was AAAA at the time when both the individual and team championships were won. It doesn’t make winning one any easier, it just makes it different. EVHS now competes in 5A and NM’s biggest schools compete in the 6A classification.
The Valley Daily Post recently visited the EVHS girls cross country team during a pre-season practice. A relatively young team, it sports three girls who ran in last year’s NMAA State AAAAA Cross-Country Championship race. They are coached by Annabelle Ortiz-Almager, who is in her second year and is looking for a solid season and a strong performance from them in the District race to qualify to State. Valley Daily Post image
Both girls and boys teams made it to the NMAA State Cross Country Championships last season and did well, but did not threaten for the top finishes either as a team or individually. However, both teams finished high enough in district competition last year to continue the tradition of appearing in New Mexico’s premiere cross-country state championship race established during the tenure of, now retired, Coach Naranjo and Assistant Coach Danny Bustos.
Some of the current team’s members who ran in last year’s state championship race talked about running cross-country -a sport that is as tough as any sport but with little glory associated with it. Alexis Trujillo, who ran in the State meet last year said, “I know it’s a hard sport but for me it’s not, it’s like a family thing,” referring to Coach Trujillo, head coach of the boy’s cross-country team, “He’s my dad and Coach Annabelle is my cousin,” she said smiling. Asked what she thought of having a former girls Cross-Country State Champion as a coach, Trujillo responded, “She’s a good coach, she pushes us,” as she joined the rest of the girl’s team starting to head out on a practice run with their coach.
Alexis Trujillo. Valley Daily Post image
Other returning varsity runners to the girls team include Alexa Baca and Faith Trujillo, giving the Lady Sundevils a strong base on which to build. According to the coaches and students EVHS girl’s cross-country is looking to repeat going to State this year. Competition istough in the new AAAAA district, but the team has experienced runners and young runners this year and optimism is “running” high
EVHS Girls Cross-Country Coach Annabelle Ortiz-Almager,said of her
Alexa Baca. Valley Daily Post image
team that “she loves coaching” the girls team and credits her former Coach Lawrence Naranjo for much of her success in her cross country career, later running for NMHU, and success in life to him, “He was like my dad,” she said.” Today, Annabelle Ortiz-Almager, is not only the coach but was elected to the Espanola School Board in the last election. She was, apparently, a good listener, too.
See below for a few more images from EVHS cross country, both past and present.
Faith Trujillo. Valley Daily Post image
Coaches Ortiz-Almager (L) and Trujillo (R) confer at the start of practice. Valley Daily Post image
Former EVHS cross-country coach, Lawrence Naranjo, is shown here running in the NAIA Nationals in Kenosha, Wis. for NMHU X-C in the early 1980’s. The coach is shown leading the race early on and wearing #61 with “HU CROSS COUNTRY” emblazoned on the long sleeve running apparel.He just missed All American status. He went on to coach the EVHS girls XC team to a State Championship in 1992. Courtesy image
Running for a strong finish at the end of practice. Valley Daily Post image