By George Morse
Española Valley Schools Superintendent Fred Trujillo is a familiar face to Northern New Mexico high school sports fans. Hired by a unanimous vote at the end of February by the Española Valley School Board, Trujillo has served the past nine years as Superintendent of Pecos Public Schools in Pecos NM.
During Trujillo’s tenure at Pecos, the Panthers experienced unprecedented success in athletics. Pecos has won four consecutive state boys basketball championships, including a 63-53 victory over Magdalena High School March 14 in the Class 2A state championship game at The Pit in Albuquerque.
The Panthers’ success was not limited to the basketball court. Pecos won four state spirit championships in cheerleading. From 2015-2017, the boys cross country team won three consecutive state championships. The Lady Panthers were 2019 Class 2A state basketball champions and 2018 Class A-2A state cross country champions. In 2015, the boys were Class 3A state track and field champions.
During Trujillo’s tenure one of the key components of Pecos’ success not just athletically but also academically was consistency.
“Consistency in coaching was the biggest contributor to athletics,” Trujillo said. “In academics, I strove to keep a consistent teaching staff. Good people will continue to produce good results.”
Ira Harge Jr. served as boys basketball coach since the 2012-2013 season and built the Panthers into a four-time state champion after going just 6-25 his first season. Pecos alumnus Patrick Ortiz, a former state champion, has headed up the cross country program since 2015. Ron Drake took over the girls basketball program in the 2014-2015 season and led the Lady Panthers to their first state championship in 2019 before resigning to move to another school. Jessica Flores served as cheerleading coach throughout Trujillo’s tenure as Superintendent.
Harge will be following Trujillo to Española, where he will serve as Athletic Director for the Sundevils.
“Pecos was a great experience,” Trujillo said. It’s a small school district, which I loved. Not only was I Superintendent, but I was director of management, director of transportation.”
Trujillo’s roots in athletics run deep and began when he was a youngster growing up in the small town of Las Animas, CO.
“In elementary school, I went to St. Mary Catholic School,” Trujillo said. “I would go jogging with a teacher there. I loved football, but didn’t have a football body. I didn’t get tired and thought that this was something I could pursue.”
It was in middle school (seventh grade) that Trujillo began to take the sport of running seriously.
“My dad owned a liquor store and one of his good customers had a son who was a good high school runner,” Trujillo said. “We started running together and I was able to stay with him. I realized this was something I could excel at and it took off from there.
Trujillo emerged as one of the top high school distance runners in the state, especially in the half-mile (800 meters). That led to a scholarship at the then University of Southern Colorado (now the University of Colorado-Pueblo).
“In high school I ran the half-mile to the two mile,” Trujillo said. “In college, I ran the half-mile to 10,000 meters. I also ran cross country.”
Trujillo’s first teaching and coaching job after graduation from college was 1993-1998 at Hagerman High School in Southern New Mexico. He served as assistant football coach and head track and field coach. In 1997 and 1998, Hagerman was Class A boys track and field state champions.
In 1998, Trujillo moved from Hagerman to Escalante High School in Tierra Amarilla. He served as track and field coach from 1998 until 2000 and as head football coach from 1999-2000.
Completing his Masters Degree in Administration in 2001 from New Mexico Highlands University, Trujillo became principal at the elementary and middle school for the Chama Valley School District. In 2008, he was principal at Escalante.
In 2008, Trujillo returned to Colorado and spent two years as Principal at Pueblo Central High School in Pueblo, CO. In 2011, he was hired as Superintendent at Pecos.
Trujillo will be paid a salary of $150,000 per year at Española. He replaces Bobbie Gutierrez, who will continue to work for Española Public Schools. Trujillo has had to deal with the coronavirus pandemic that led to the shutdown of all public school for the remainder of the school year by Governor Michelle Lujan-Grisham shortly after he was hired
Trujillo is working to implement a plan to continue educating and serving the needs of the students of Española using technology and non-technology methods during the shutdown. Trujillo has been touring the facilities of the 13 schools in the Española School District.
Española is famous throughout the state for its high school basketball teams and the support they receive from the community. Trujillo believes that Española is capable of not only continuing that excellence in basketball but can develop a stronger overall sports program as was accomplished at Pecos.
“We have the same caliber of athlete here as we did at Pecos,” Trujillo said. “There’s untapped potential here at Españolaa. Sports compliment each other and I encourage athletes and coaches to be involved in as many things that they can.”
With the exception of basketball, participation in and support for other sports seems to wane once Española students reach the high school level.
“There seems to be a disconnect at the Middle School level,” Trujillo said. ”I’m going to task Ira (Harge) with developing true feeder programs for all the sports.”
Trujillo said that the timing was right was part of his decision to leave Pecos for Española. He is looking forward to the challenge of moving to a larger school district and building a strong athletic and academic program as was accomplished at Pecos.
“I believe it will happen sooner than later,” he said. “I’m excited.”