Pojoaque XC opens season at Lobo Invitational

The Pojoaque Valley High School boys cross country team finished 11th at the University of New Mexico LoboInvitational cross country meet Saturday (9/1) in Albuquerque. Running for Pojoaque were: Santiago Romero (left), Ricky Sandoval, Zach Hall, Joseph Gutierrez, John Hall (photo courtesy of Gloria Martinez).

Pojoaque Competes at UNM Cross Country Meet

The University of New Mexico Lobo Invitational cross country meet was held Saturday (9/1) in Albuquerque. One of the largest meets of the season, 25 boys teams and 23 girls teams competed on the course that was held at the University’s golf course. Pojoaque Valley High School traditionally begins its season at the Lobo Invitational. Pojoaque Coach Alan Lockridge begins his 31st season at Pojoaque with teams that are a combination of experience and youth.

The five runners for the Elks included seniors John Hall and Ricky Sandoval, junior Joseph Gutierrez and sophomores Zach Hall and Santiago Romero. John Hall, who finished fifth at the 2017 State Cross Country Meet in Class 4A, is the team’s top runner. The Elks took second place as a team at last year’s state championships and are looking to bag another trophy this season.

 John Hall led the way for Pojoaque at this year’s Lobo Invitational, coming in 14th overall in a field of 175 runners with a time of 16 minutes, 53.4 seconds. The Elks came in 11th overall in the team standings, scoring 326 points.

Romero was the next Pojoaque runner to cross the finish line, coming in 49th overall with a time of 17 minutes, 57.7 seconds. Gutierrez was next, finishing 72nd with a time of 18 minutes, 40.7 seconds. Zach Hall, John’s younger brother, was 80th with a time of 18 minutes, 55.8 seconds. Sandoval was Pojoaque’s fifth runner. He finished 138th with a time of 20 minutes, 45.5 seconds.

“We’re okay,” Coach Lockridge said. “I’m happy with it. They did well.”

During the season, Lockridge will be moving runners around. He’ll promote some from the junior varsity to the varsity based on their performance. He expects junior Sebastian Rubio to be one of his varsity runners. Rubio also plays soccer for Pojoaque and was competing in a soccer game the day of the Lobo Invitational. He expects freshmen Lucas Tiede and Matthew Gomez to be varsity runners.

Pojoaque will face some stiffer competition this season with traditional cross country powerhouses Albuquerque Academy and Los Alamos High School now competing in Class 4A. Academy took first place in the team standings at the Lobo Invitational with 47 points. Los Alamos was third with 122 points. El Paso Americus High School grabbed second with 86 points.

Los Alamos will also be a District 2-4A rival of the Elks.

“It’s going to be a challenge,” John Hall said. “I’m feeling strong. I’ve put in a lot of training and we’ll see where it takes me. The team’s looking good overall. I’m pushing them, encouraging them to get better.”

The Pojoaque girls cross country team finished 16th at the Lobo Invitational cross country meet Saturday (9/1) in Albuquerque. Running for Pojoaque were: Michaela Martinez (left), Mia Vigil, Amerie Onesalt, Alicia Sanchez, Taylor Roybal (photo coutesy of Gloria Martinez).

The Elkettes have a shot at returning to state and that’s their goal. They finished sixth last year in the team standings, which was a notable achievement after failing to qualify for state in 2016. Their way to state will be tougher, as Los Alamos High School and Taos High School are both now District 2-4A rivals of Pojoaque. Taos is the defending Class 4A state champion and Los Alamos competed in Class 5A last season and took second place at state. Both return strong teams. Pojoaque is aiming for a third-place finish in District 2-4A to once again qualify for state.

“Those (Los Alamos, Taos) are two of the top five teams in the state (in all classes),” Coach Lockridge said.

Still, the Elkettes will return several runners with experience competing at state. Junior Amerie Onesalt was Pojoaque’s top runner at state last year, finishing 12th overall. She returns as part of a strong junior class for Pojoaque. Onesalt got a late start this season  after deciding to return to Pojoaque instead of transferring to Rio Rancho High School. Other returning juniors include Michaela Martinez, Alicia Sanchez and Mia Vigil. Seniors Taylor Roybal and Alexis Romero also return. Martinez, Roybal and Sanchez ran at state last year.

Martinez turned out to be Pojoaque’s first runner across the finish line at the Lobo Invitational. She finished 40th in a field of 158 runners with a time of 21 minutes, 19.2 seconds. The Elkettes finished 16th in the team standings with 414 points. Albuquerque Academy took first place with 55 points and Los Alamos was close behind in second with 60 points.

“Michaela had a great run,” Coach Lockridge said. “The girls ran well. I’m very comfortable with it.”

Also running at UNM for the Elkettes was Onesalt, who came in 68th with a time of 22 minutes, 19.3 seconds. Roybal came in 106th in 23 minutes, 39.8 seconds. Vigil was right behind her in 107th place with a time of 23 minutes, 42.8 seconds. Sanchez was 117 with a time of 24 minutes, 24.9 seconds as Pojoaque’s fifth runner.

Lockridge expects eighth-grader Anna Harrold to be a precocious runner for the Elkettes, competing with the varsity.

“She’s one of those eighth-graders who make me look good,” he said.

Pojoaque will be competing Friday at the St. Pius X Super Cinco XC Relays at St. Pius X High School in Albuquerque.