The Pojoaque Valley High School boys team finished in second place at the District 2-4A cross country meet and is headed to state (photo by George Morse).
Elks, Elkettes Headed to State
By George Morse Sports and Outdoors
After 30 years of coaching cross country at Pojoaque, first at Pojoaque High School and what is now Pojoaque Valley High School, Coach Alan Lockridge can still be moved by the efforts of the athletes that he tries to bring the best out of.
At the District 2-4A cross country meet Nov. 2 hosted by Pojoaque, his boys and girls cross country teams ran their hearts out and both qualified for the Class 4A state cross country meet Saturday at Rio Rancho High School.
“After all the work, hard training and getting on their case, I wanted to cry,” Lockridge said. “They performed so well.”
The Elks took second place in the boys race and did not back down against heavy favorite Los Alamos High School. The Hilltoppers ended up taking first place, scoring 25 points. With most of the team turning in their best efforts of the season, Pojoaque surprised a lot of people (except maybe not themselves) by finishing a solid second with 47 points.
The surprises came right away in the boys race. At Los Alamos’ last two meets, the trio of senior Duncan Fuehne, junior Steve Strevell snd sophomore Rafael Sanchez had finished packed tightly together with scarcely a second separating them. At Pojoaque, Fuehne was the first runner to appear near the finish line. The next runner was the surprise.
Not too far behind and hot on Fuehne’s heels came Pojoaque senior John Hall. Fuehne managed to hold on to first place and finish with a time of 17 minutes, 08.24 seconds. Less than three seconds later, Hall finished second in 17 minutes, 11.09 seconds.
“John put a lot of stuff together,” Coach Lockridge said. “It was a great race for him.”
Hall, who was Pojoaque’s best runner all season, had finished fifth at last season’s Class 3A state cross country meet. Despite having to face stronger competition when Pojoaque moved up to Class 4A this season, he is aiming for another top-10 finish at state.
“It felt really good,” Hall said. “I had a really good run. The team stepped up big time and packed in right behind me.”
Pojoaque senior John Hall came in second at the District 2-4A cross country meet Nov. 2 at Pojoaque (photo by Chris Roybal).
After Sanchez finished third and Strevell came in fourth for Los Alamos, there was a bit of a wait of about 30 seconds before the fift-place runner showed up. It turned out to be Pojoaque sophomore Santiago Romero. He finished with a time of 17 minutes, 56.80 seconds. After Romero came Taos High School sophomore Sam Hastings. Next was another Pojoaque runner. Joseph Gutierrez finished seventh with a time of 18 minutes, 11.50 seconds.
When Los Alamos freshman Ryan Aldaz crossed the finish line in eighth place , followed by junior Hunter Swavely, five Los Alamos runners had crossed the finish line. That gave the Hilltoppers a score of 25 points and wrapped up first place for the Hilltoppers.
Still to come for Pojoaque, junior Sebastian Rubio came in 13th with a time of 18 minutes, 28.16 seconds. Rubio, who plays soccer for Pojoaque and kicks extra points for the football team, can dedicate all his energy to cross country now that the football and soccer seasons are over.
Pojoaque’s fifth runner was one of Lockridge’s precocious underclassmen. Freshman Lucas Tiede came in 20th with a time of 19 minutes, 35.52 seconds. That completed Pojoaque’s scoring of 47 points.
Also competing for the Elks were freshman Isiah Roybal, who came in 24th. Freshman Matthew Gomez finished 28th for Pojoaque. Those seven runners will represent Pojoaque at state.
Pojoaque’s Santiago Romero (rear), Joseph Gutierrez (left) and John Hall (right) chase a trio of Los Alamos runners and arunner from Moriarty at the District 2-4A cross country meet (photo by Chris Roybal).
“Santi and Joseph had great runs,” Coach Lockridge said. “Sebastian is just a great athlete. My young guys, they came through.”
The Elks are shooting for a spot on the awards podium when they get to state. They will have to contend with Los Alamos and a strong team from Albuquerque Academy, who likely will finish first and second. Kirtland Central High School has the best runner in the state in senior Kashon Harrison and is another strong team. Miyamura High School boasts senior Ty McCray, likely the second-best Class 4A runner, on its team. Shiprock High School is always a contender for a trophy.
The start of the girls race at the District 2-4A cross country meet Nov. 2 at Pojoaque. The Elkettes finished third to qualify for state (photo by George Morse).
For the Pojoaque girls cross country team, the goal for the Elkettes was to take third place. A dominant Los Alamos team and a strong Taos High School team would invariably finish first and second, respectively. Pojoaque’s goal was to finish ahead of Moriarty High School and take third place.
Los Alamos, as expected, dominated and scored a near-perfect 19 points to grab first place. Freshman Norrissa Valdez took first place for the Hilltoppers. Eighth-grader Emma Montoya was third for the Lady Hilltoppers and sophomore Hannah Gartz came in fourth. Sophomores Mabel Pyle and Tia Hartzol finished fifth and sixth, respectively, for Los Alamos.
Taos sophomore Alyx Mastor was the runner who kept Los Alamos from a perfect score of 15 points. She finished second. Taos scored 44 points in second place.
Pojoaque has had to deal with the loss of its best runner, junior Amerie Onesalt, to a knee injury in the middle of the season. Other runners have had to step up and Lockridge has had to bring young runners up.
Junior Michaela Martinez has assumed the role of lead runner and she was the first Pojoaque runner to cross the finish line at the District 2-4A meet. Martinez finished 14th with a time of 22 minutes, 33.47 seconds.
“I just couldn’t let the Moriarty runner behind me beat me,” Martinez said. “I knew she was coming for me.”
Pojoaque's Michaela Martinez leads the Elkettes at the start of the girls race. She finished 14th (photo by Chris Roybal).
That runner, Mimi Notah, came in 15th with a time of 22 minutes, 43.81 seconds.
The next runner for Pojoaque was junior Mia Vigil, who was 17th with a time of 23 minutes, 23.05 seconds. Senior Taylor Roybal then led a group of three Pojoaque runners that came in next for the Elkettes. Roybal finished 22nd with a time of 24 minutes, 09.75 seconds. Junior Alicia Sanchez came in 23rd with a time of 24 minutes, 12.37 seconds. Pojoaque’s fifth runner was eighth-grader Ayla Garcia, who was 24th with a time of 24 minutes, 15.39 seconds.
With more Moriarty runners still to come, the Elkettes had wrapped up third place with 100 points.
Pojoaque's Taylor Roybal (rear, left) and Alicia Sanchez (rear, right) follow a Taos runner and teammate Ayla Garcia during the girls race (photo by Chris Roybal).
Pojoaque senior Alexis Romero came in 26th for Pojoaque with a time of 25 minutes, 02.85 seconds. Pojoaque’s seventh runner was freshman Rayannon Velarde, who came in 28th with a time 25 minutes, 17.94 seconds.
Those seven runners will represent the Elkettes at state.
“Every one of those kids performed well,” Coach Lockridge said.
Lockridge has coached state championship teams, both boys and girls, as well as individual state champions during his time at Pojoaque. Given the moniker “The Legend” by former Pojoaque athletic director Matt Martinez, he claims little of the responsibility for the success of the Elks and Elkettes for himself.
“I’ve never won a race in my life,” he said. “It’s all the kids. We open the door. They do what it takes to go through it.”