Pojoaque Valley Cross Country: They Have A Lockridge On It…

PHS Cross-Country coach, Allan Lockridge, looks for photos for the Valley Daily Post while runners relax before 6 a mile practice run. An official race is 3.0 or 3.1 miles - 5,000 meters. Valley Daily Post image

Pojoaque Valley Cross Country: They Have A Lockridge On It…

By Robert A. Naranjo

JACONA – The storm clouds in the direction of Pojoaque looked menacing from Espanola, but the coach had encouraged me to get there before it rained. Having heard of Pojoaque Valley’s success in the sport of cross-country, I was about to find out why with three words: Coach Allan Lockridge. I arrived at Pojoaque High School, and was greeted by the name of the former Speaker of the NM House of Representatives, Ben Lujan, whose name is emblazoned on the side of the school gym along with the school name, Pojoaque High School.

At the bottom of the parking lot, in front of the school, the Coach had indicated was where their training base camp could be found. “It’s immediately on your right,” the coach had informed me after a left turn first, he added. I’d find him and his team of cross- country runners there he assured me. I see a good size sheet metal building, the solid ones people buy to use as garages. Being a former high school cross-country runner myself, I recognized runners getting ready for “The Long Run.” And, I’m not talking about the popular band, the Eagles’ album — I’m talking about the essence of the sport that pits you not only against nature, other runners, but also against yourself—that is, your personal best time.

I had my camera going by now taking candid shots of the team, while they prepped for their practice run. Coach “Lock” as he is affectionately called, then gets three runners to pose for the camera, and steps out of the camera’s view. After taking a few photos sans the coach, I suggest, “Get in there, Coach!” He stands by his runners and I take several photos. Later, I would find out one runner at practice was tall and seemingly older than the runners present, but not by much. He turned out to be a former runner, Jereme Santistevan, a PHS standout and two-time AAA State Cross Country Champion in 2012 and 2013. Santistevan is now top man and on a “full boat” cross-country scholarship at New Mexico State University. He was named cross-country “Freshman of the Year” for the Mountain West Conference in 2014.

With Santistevan present at this practice, I was to find out was the “secret” that I wanted to know relative to the coach’s success over the years. Can you guess? Yes, former cross-country standouts returning, like Santistevan, and  helping, teaching, assisting, running, bonding, role modeling – an assistant coach who’s not an assistant coach but even better – a mentor. Therein was the secret to the coach’s success – former runners now running at the next level, coming back to their alma mater to offer support and by their mere presence, demonstrating to the high school runners that they, too, could earn a running scholarship and attend a university in state or anywhere in the country.

I took photos of members of the girl’s X-C team also, but not all the team was at this practice. Moments later, Coach Lock, in more of a communicating style than an order, asks where they plan to run. He tells the boys team to form a line as they take off for the camera. The video camera follows the runners for a moment and they then disappear out of sight as they round a turn past some pinon trees. They are momentarily visible again before they get down the business of cross-country practice.

I informed my editor that what I witnessed would require more than one story 600 words in length. Actually, I was sent to report on a cross-country fundraiser “Run Along the River” which helps defray some team expenses. Transportation is provided to the team, but pretty much school financial assistance stops there – other team expenses are paid for by fundraisers (Info on a Fundraiser event HERE). The Run Along the River fundraiser is scheduled to occur on August 2 at the San Ildefonso Pueblo near the softball fields. 10k starts at 8:30 and 5k at 9:30. The fundraiser race promises to be scenic and a good way to help Coach and the cross-country team. An assistant, in a side out of the coach’s hearing range, told me that Coach Lock buys things like snacks, water, etc. for before and after practice.

I’m pretty much out of space but stay with the Valley Daily Post reports on this fascinating Coach and “his Band on the Run!” There are successes for Coach Lock’s former runners which range from “…the only freshman in  UNM’s history” to compete in NCAA Div. I Nationals! Moreover, find out about the incredulous feat of a former Elk Cross-Country runner who became a U.S. Olympic Qualifier in the 5,000 meters. To get the names of these and others who have gone on to make their mark in the world, you’ll have to look for the continuing series on the Valley Daily Post’s “Pojoaque Valley Cross Country: They Have a Lockridge on it.” Shining seasons? You bet!  Next time: the Hall of Fame – runners and the Coach. And, more!

Thank you for taking the time to read the Valley Daily Post.