Escalante senior Andres Blea won the 300-meter hurdles at the 2019 Class 2A state track and field meet May 11 in Albuquerque. Blea established a new state record with a time of 40.32 seconds.
By George Morse
Escalante Hurdlers Finish Careers With Gold
For Escalante seniors Hailey Whitaker and Andres (AJ) Blea, the 2019 Class A-3A state track and field meet at the Great Friends of UNM track and field facilities May 10-11 would be their last state meet. Both were finishing off highly successful athletic careers at Escalante. Both ran the hurdles, a discipline that sometimes has trouble attracting participants due to the amount of training it takes to excel at.
Both were coming in hungry after the 2018 state track and field meet. Whitaker had finished second last year in the 300-meter hurdles and third in the 100-meter hurdles. This year, her sights were set at taking first place in both events.
Blea was just as motivated. Last year at state, he had broken the state record in the 300-meter hurdles. However, Mountainair High School’s Kasey Reese had also broken the state record and took first place with a time of 40.74 seconds. Blea was gunning for first and a new state record this year.
He was also aiming at first place in the 110-meter hurdles, where he had finished third last year.
Blea and Whitaker have pushed each other this season.
“Ever since we were little, we would race against each other,” Whitaker said.
Despite a cold and snowy winter in Tierra Amarilla, the home of Escalante High School, they trained hard for this final state track meet.
“We’d bring the hurdles into the gym and practice there,” Blea said. “That’s how motivated we were.”
The first test was the 100-meter hurdles for Whitaker. She had the fastest time in the preliminary heats of 16.88 seconds May 10 on a windy and rainy day. In the finals May 11 under better conditions, she left the field staring at her back, taking first place with a time of 15.82 seconds.
Blea was next in the 110-meter hurdles. He had the fastest time in the preliminaries of 16.30 seconds. In the finals, he was even faster, finishing with a time of 15.79 seconds. Santa Rosa High School’s Martin Madrid was just a little faster, winning with a time of 15.64 seconds. Blea took second.
The 300-meter hurdles came next, although Whittaker took time to pick up a fifth-place medal in the 100-meter dash. Once again, Whittaker had the fastest time in the preliminaries of 49.81 seconds. In the finals May 11, she once again blew away her competition, winning with a time of 47.93 seconds. It was the culmination of a career that started when she was an eighth-grader.
“One year left, so I gave it my all,” Whitaker said. “I worked so hard. I’m just so happy.”
Blea was next in the boys Class 2A 300-meter hurdles.
He also had the fastest time in the preliminaries of 41.42 seconds. He faced stiff competition in the finals. Both Avante Stevens of Eunice High School and Brian Walker of Estancia High School broke the state-record time Reese had set last season.
Blea would not be beaten on this day. He finished first ahead of Stevens and Walker with a new state-record time of 40.32 seconds.
“All the work I’ve put in finally paid off,” Blea said. “I’m feeling great.”
Blea would later pick up a fifth place medal in the 200-meter dash. Whittaker had taken a fourth-place medal May 10 in the long jump finals.
There was one final event May 11 for Escalante. In the girls 1600-meter relay, the Lady Lobos team of Aubrie Hinds, Brycelyn Martinez, Sherydan Salazar and Reina Terrazas had advanced to the finals. Hinds was the acknowledged leader of the team, being a senior competing in her final race for Escalante. Terrazas and Salazar were both freshmen, while Martinez was a precocious eighth-grader.
The Lady Lobos didn’t take first place, which belonged to Cloudcroft High School with a time of 4 minutes, 20.98 seconds. Escalante came in second with a time of 4 minutes, 24.37 seconds.
‘This was my last race,” Hinds said. “Time to pass it on. They were such an amazing team and I know they’re going to do amazing things.”
The team had progressed throughout the season under Hinds leadership.
The first time they ran it, they ran a 4:44,” Escalante Coach Isaac Royston said. “They improved their time by 20 seconds.
The younger runners acknowledged Hinds as the glue that held them together.
“It was an honor to have her on the team,” Martinez said.
Terrazas is already a budding leader as a freshman.
“She (Hinds) made it so much fun,” Terrazas said.
The Lady Lobos finished with 33 points and in fifth place in the team standings. Cloudcroft took first place with 52 points. Terrazas picked up a fifth-place medal in the 400-meter run. The 800-meter relay team of Hinds, Zoe Archuleta, Emma Maestas and Terrazas took fourth place.
The Escalante boys team scored 15 points in 11th place. Santa Rosa took first with 59 points. Escalante’s 800-meter relay team of Antonio Baca, Wyatt Horan, Isaiah Maestas and Dante Salazar took sixth place.
Escalante senior Hailey Whitaker won the 100-meter hurdles (above) and the 300-meter hurdles at the 2019 Class 2A state track and field meet. Whitaker's time in the 100-meter hurdles was 15.82 seconds.
The Escalante 1600-meter relay team took second place at the 2019 Class 2A state track and field meet with a time of 4:24.37 seconds. Team members were: (Top) Sherydan Salazar, Aubrie Hinds. (Bottom) Brycelyn Martinez, Reina Terrazas (Courtesy photo by Melinda Salazar).
The Escalante 800-meter relay team took sixth place at the 2019 Class 2A track and field meet. Team members are: (left to right) Wyatt Horan, Antonio Baca, Isaiah Maestas, Dante Salazar.