Come Saturday evening, the podium at the Class 3A-5A high school state track & field championships may be loaded down with not just one local team, or even two. There could be as many as three local squads squeezing onto the podium at the University of New Mexico track & field complex.
And while that may be just a big ho-hum for the Taos boys and girls squads, which finished third and were the champions respectively in 3A, it would be an entirely new experience for the Santa Fe girls in 4A.
“This is probably the best girls team I’ve had at Santa Fe,” said coach Peter Graham. “If everything goes right, I think we could grab a spot on the podium. But track and field is a funny thing and anything can happen.”
Graham is not even certain when the Demonettes last climbed the coveted steps at the end of the meet, but he knows it hasn’t happened during his tenure, which began in 1991.
Graham’s optimism lies with two outstanding senior athletes who have dominated their events this season: sprinter Tiffany Garcia and distance specialist Noel Prandoni. Between the two, the Demonettes could have five individual gold medals, which would be a terrific jumpstart into trophy contention.
For Garcia, it’s been an amazing transformation for someone who was barely on the radar last year, taking third in the 400 and running the sprint relays.
“She’s really come a long way,” Graham said. “She’s put in a lot of hard work. I’ve had some kids make some pretty big strides but nothing like Tiffany. She’s really taking it to the next level.”
Garcia blew away the field in the 100-, 200- and 400-meter dashes at the Marilyn Sepulveda Meet of Champions invitational that drew the top competitors in the state regardless of class.
Each of her seed times would be state records had they occurred at the state meet.
“Her dad is a personal trainer, and after the state meet and the Great Southwest meet (last June), she got a taste of success and she went after it with weight work; she was motivated.”
Garcia said it’s definitely her goal to not only win each of the sprints and set records in them, but also to help the 4X200 set a record that it so narrowly missed last season and, ultimately, to join her teammates on the podium when the meet finishes.
“I’m excited and I’m ready to compete because I have a lot of confidence,” said Garcia, who recently agreed to attend New Mexico Junior College. “I would like to get the open records and I want to get the relay record for my girls.”
As for the team trophy, “that would be a lot harder,” she said. “But I think it’s a possibility.”
Teammate Akeisha Ayanniyi is not that far off Garcia’s pace in the 100 and 200, seeded fourth in both events, giving the Demonettes the chance of pulling some big points in both races. She’s also No. 1 in the long jump.
And the team’s 4X100 and 4X200 relays are also seeded No. 1, while Madeline Weibe sits fourth and fifth in the two hurdles.
Getting a trophy for the school is something the team has set its sights on, said Prandoni, who will be competing for Adams State in the fall.
“We’d really like to accomplish that,” she said. “Everybody is pushing each other.”
As for her personal goals, “I’d really like to PR (personal record) and score some points for the team,” Prandoni said.
Tigers girls look to repeat
The top 4A athletes from the area include Haylkey Schake of Los Alamos, who’s seeded third in the 400; Chelsea Chalacombe of Los Alamos, who’s seeded first in the high jump and second in the 100 hurdles; Capital sprinters Hunter Ferguson, who is seeded first in the 100, and Augustine Larranaga, who is seeded second in the 400; Colin Hemez of Los Alamos, who is seeded second in the 1,600; Santa Fe’s Zachary Grand, who is second in the 3,200; and Demons Jonny Loera and Antonio Castillo, who are second and third in the shot put.
In 3A, the Tigers girls are looking to repeat behind a deep squad that includes sprinters Amanda Mondragon, who leads the 200, and also delivers in the top-seeded 100 and 200 dashes.
“Right now, our goal is to go out there and compete and see what the end results are,” Tigers coach Benny Mitchell said.
Taos has the potential to rack up a bunch of points in the 3,200 with Hannah Gunther, Elizabeth Reyes and Cora Cannedy all among the top six, while St. Michael’s Rachel Saladen and Brianna Farrier are second and fourth.
Saladen also is seeded second in the 800 and the 1,600.
On the boys side, Isaac Gonzales had the top times in all three sprints, as well as the farthest long jump, while teammate Jesse Weber is right behind him in the 200 and 400.
The Tigers’ Roy Madrid has a top 800 time in a race that’s all north, as Moises Coca of West Las Vegas, Jacob Pacheco of Taos, Robert’s Andrew Ulibarri, and Armando Blea and Joey Najjar, both of St. Mike’s, are all among the top seven.
Pojoaque’s Jereme Santistevan is the one to beat in the 1,600 and 3,200.
Taos claims the top times in all four relays, which could certainly spur a championship bid.
St. Mike’s is well represented in the field events, with Isiah Dominguez the top triple jumper and Mathias Hochanadel No. 1 in discus. Hochanadel and his brother Joris Hochanadel are second and third in the shot.
The West Las Vegas duo of Nicholas Gurule and Salvador Lopez are 1-2 in the javelin.