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N.M. athletes look forward to challenge

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Great SW Track loaded with talent

They stood together Tuesday, a small sampling of the state’s track and field elite, and posed the million-dollar hypothetical to themselves.

“I’m looking forward to seeing where I’m at,” Highland hurdler Mustafa Mudada said.

The 38th annual Great Southwest Track and Field Classic is the ultimate litmus test for New Mexicans.

A large group of state champions will join athletes from over a dozen other states — including Florida — when the mega meet begins Thursday at the University of New Mexico track complex.

“We’re all from different states, and I want to see who my competition is,” said Cleveland’s Parker Jones, second to Mudada in the high-point race at last month’s Class 5A state meet.

“This is a great opportunity to see who we’re competing against next year.”

The Great Southwest begins Thursday morning with the boys and girls decathlon, and the girls heptathlon.

All three conclude Friday afternoon. There are several events scheduled Friday night, but the bulk of the meet is Saturday, with field events starting at 10:30 a.m. and the running finals beginning in earnest at 3 p.m.

New Mexico’s list of entrants is long and impressive.

Mudada and Jones, the state’s top 110-meter hurdlers, will have lots of talented company this weekend. Jones (Adams State) is also running the 200, Mudada (UNM) the 300 hurdles.

Jones beat Mudada the last two times they went head to head.

“Honestly,” Jones said of Mudada, “he’s the one competitor that pushed me the most to become a better hurdler.”

Some of the other top New Mexicans on the boys entry list includes double state champion Nainoa Biggs of Cleveland (long jump, triple jump), Volcano Vista thrower Mike Budick, Piedra Vista sprinter Zach Johnson and Los Alamos distance runner Sean Reardon.

“This is really exciting,” said Mudada. “I can put myself in the national spotlight.”

Mudada’s best race is the 300 hurdles; the meet record was set six years ago by a Texas teenager named Robert Griffin III. Yes, that Robert Griffin III.

For the girls, headliners include Eldorado pole vaulter Lauren Martinez, Del Norte distance runner Jenna Thurman, Volcano Vista high jumper Lindsey Larsen, Cleveland sprinter Nia Powdrell, Piedra Vista’s dynamic sprinter/hurdler, Zhianna Flores, and Los Alamos’ multi-talented Laura Wendelberger. Wendelberger is doing the heptathlon.

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