Escalante’s Blea Brings Back Five Medals, Breaks State Record

by Staff Reporter / May 07, 2018 / comments
Escalante’s Anres Blea, Anthony Paul Martinez, Andres Martinez and Esteban Archuleta took third place in the 400-meter relay. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

Escalante’s Blea Brings Back Five Medals, Breaks State Record

By George Morse Sports and Outdoors

Escalante High School junior Andres (AJ) Blea will need a strong neck after the New Mexico Class A-3A State Track and Field Meet May 4-5 at the Great Friends of UNM track and field facilities in Albuquerque. Blea will be bringing back five medals, one of them gold, after an outstanding performance for the Lobos.

His first medal was the golden one, earned on the opening day of competition May 4 in the long jump. Blea was a surprise qualifier at the District 5-2A track and field meet April 27 at Questa. The long jump was an event that he had done little preparation for during the season. He won the event with a leap of 19 feet, 9.35 inches at the District 5-2A meet, qualifying him for state.

‘They just wanted to put me in it,” Blea said. “It was my first time doing it in a while.”

Blea set the standard with his first jump at state, using the adrenaline of the competition to soar 20 feet, 2.75 inches on his first attempt. Competitor after competitor tried to match that effort as the competition progressed. Even Blea never matched the distance of his first jump in his next five attempts. That first jump turned out to be the best jump of the competition and Blea had a gold medal.

Blea’s strongest events during the season were the 110-meter hurdles and the 300-meter hurdles, where he had the second-fastest state-qualifying times in both events.

Escalante’s Andres (AJ) Blea took third place in the 110-meter hurdles. Mountainair’s Kasey Reese too first and Jal’s Freddy Carillo was second. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

He also ran the anchor legs of Escalante’s 400-meter and 800-meter relays. All those events qualified for the finals May 5 after the May 4 preliminaries.

With teammates Anthony Paul Martinez, Esteban Archuleta, Andres Martinez running the first three legs of the 400-meter relay, Blea brought the Baton in with a time of 45.96 seconds. The Lobos took third place.

Andres (AJ) Blea ran the anchor leg for Escalante in the 400-meter relay. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

Blea’s next event was the 110-meter hurdles. He had the third-fastest time in the preliminaries and that’s how he finished in the final, taking third place with a time of 16.38 seconds. Mountainair High School’s Kasey Reese took first place and Jal High School’s Freddy Carillo took second place.

Reese and Blea would battle again in the 300-meter hurdles later in the meet.

Next up for Blea was the anchor leg of the 800-meter relay. Anthony Paul Martinez, Antonio Baca, Archuleta and Blea once again brought the baton home with a time of one minute, 38.13 seconds.

Escalante’s Antonio Baca handed off to teammate Esteban Archuleta in the 800-meter relay. The Lobos took third place. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

In the 300-meter hurdles, Blea and Reese pulled away from the competition and it was a two-man race for the final 100-meters of the grueling event. Both cleared the remaining hurdles at practically the same time. After the last hurdle, the race was too close to call for the naked eye. The electronic timer flashed the results and Reese had crossed the finish line first by just .03 seconds with a time of 40.74 seconds. Both runners broke the existing state record of 40.78 seconds.

 Escalante’s Andres (AJ) Blea (left) and Mountainair’s Kasey Reese were neck-and-neck coming into the final hurdle of the 300-meter hurdle race at the Class A-3A state track and field meet May 5 in Albuquerque. Reese edged past Blea for first place by .03 seconds. Both runners broke the existing state record. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

Reese is a senior. Blea will return next year to try to finish his career with that elusive gold medal in the hurdles events.

Escalante Scores 31 points, fourth in team standings

In addition to the total of 12 points that the Lobos scored in the two relays and the 16 points that Blea scored in the individual events, Escalante picked up three more points in the 100-meter dash. Anthony Paul Martinez took fifth place and Andres Martinez finished in sixth place. That gave the Lobos 31 points as a team. Escalante finished in fourth place.

Fort Sumner High School took first place with 116 points. Hagerman High School was in second place with 55 points. Mountainair took third place with 48 points.