Raiders set sights on top finishes at state
Cibola is hoping that giving its top two runners a break from sectionals will pay off when it really counts — at the state championship.
Bernie Montoya and Monica Huston both sat out from the sectional meet last week and will have fresh legs going into state. Cibola coach Kris Norton said that he's hoping this will improve the pair's chances of reaching their goals.
“They understand this is the most important meet of the year, you don't want to sacrifice a state title for anything else,” Norton said. “They're ready and healthy and running strong and that's the most we could ask for as far as going into it. They're very excited.”
Montoya, the current state champion, will be looking to defend his title on Saturday. Norton said that Montoya understands that he needs to use not only his legs, but also his brain for this meet.
“Bernie, of course, will be the favorite and have sort of a target on his back,” Norton said. “But he needs to step up and sort of carry that burden a little bit. He's just got to run his race. We're excited to watch him run and see what happens.
“Bernie's got to run smart and not make any mistakes. It's the state meet and anything can happen. He'll be favored, he's just got to run smart and be wise. Any given day, you never know who can run a great race — he's just got to be ready for anything. “
Norton is hoping that one of his other runners will be able to claim the No. 2 spot in the meet for the boys.
“I think the question right now is who will be runner-up. We're hoping to get a guy in Jose Garcia close to that position, he's going to go for it.”
The boys team will be made up of Montoya, Garcia and Christian Perez as the top three runners for the Raiders. Norton said that they are still looking at a rotation for the No. 4 and 5 spots between Andrew Almarez, Alan Verdugo, Luis Garibay, Keanu Nakasawa, and Alonso Perez.
“On the boys side, team wise, we're right in the mix there,” Norton said. “We're coming in as kind of the dark horse between fourth and seventh as far as placing, but we like our chances. If we get a little bit of luck and we run strong, we've got a chance of placing very, very high.”
Huston will look to finally beat Sarah Fakler, her rival from Xavier Prep.
“Out of everything that's going on, our biggest decision is going to be Monica's racing strategy,” Norton said. “It really comes down to, do we have her (Fakler) chase and go after Monica and run the risk of going out too hard and possibly getting caught? Or do we have her run for second and have her go out with the pack and hope that the pack stays closer to Sarah? That way, maybe Monica wouldn't have to do all the work in that middle zone and then we can have her shoot off and go after Sarah from there.”
Huston, Amanda Martinez, Andi Bedoya and Ally Jeffers will be the top four runners for the girls team. Norton said he is still deciding whether to run Melissa Mendoza, Joselyn Rodriguez or Alexandra Azeves in the no. 5 spot.
“We're coming in pretty healthy on the girls side and had a real strong showing at the sectional meet,” Norton said. “I think that really gave us a boost of confidence that we can really run really strong against some of the top teams. I think that will help us achieve our goal. We're looking to break the top 10 again and looking for a top 5 finish with the girls.”
Gila Ridge will also be sending both their girls and boys team to the state meet.
“I'm very proud of both groups of kids,” Gila Ridge coach Duncan Sullivan said. “It's good that we were able to get the entire team to go rather than just qualifying a couple of individuals.”
The girls team will be comprised of Madison Haynes, Natalie Lopez, Melea Harman, Noelani Harman, Candra Land, Victoria Gutierrez and Heaven Shore. Leading the pack for girls team is newcomer Haynes.
“Madison (Haynes) is still kind of learning how to run, learning how to be a cross country runner,” Sullivan said. “There's a little more coaching going on there in terms of me working on a race strategy with her. I think she's going to do well, but it's mostly about feeling out the state meet for her and seeing what kind of competition is out there for her.”
The Hawks will send Juan Marquez, Jonathan VanDeBerg, Jesus Contreras, Christian Quintero, Jose Lopez, Justin Ramirez and Michael Morrissey. Sullivan said Marquez will be in charge of leading the boys at the meet.
“Juan (Marquez) is a senior and he's been running for several years now,” Sullivan said. “I don't have to put a lot of expectations on him, he expects a lot from himself.”
The Kofa girls team will also be making the trip to state. The team will be made up of Lesley Salazar, Ruth Hanson, Paige Perry, Leticia Mora, Abigail Rosales, Alexis Jubera and Vanessa Correa.
“We're feeling awesome. We're very, very proud,” Kofa coach Tom Spanton said. “My lofty goal is for the girls to finish in the top 15...I think top 15 is a realistic goal.”
Lesley Salazar has been a consistently strong runner for the Kings all season and Spanton said he's hoping that she can help the team reach their goal.
“She's the one that has to carry the load. She's done the most work in the offseason. She's our No. 1 runner and has been all year.”
Spanton said the only thing he can ask of Salazar is that she not repeat her performance from sections.
“She came around the first turn and she's leading the race. I was thinking ‘Uh oh, she's gone out too fast'. I want her to try to contain herself so that she has a little bit of a kick left if she needs one, because she literally fell across the line and I don't want that to happen.”