On one magical Saturday at the Pit, the boys basketball team from Valley High School and the girls from Volcano Vista struck a collective blow.
As we reflect on the first six months of the sports year in the Rio West area, no day could even touch the dynamic double of the Vikings and Hawks on championship Saturday at the state tournament.
The Hawks, a 5 seed, beat Mayfield 54-53 for the Class 5A crown, the school’s second blue trophy in three years.
A few hous later, the Vikings, 5A’s No. 1 seed and the state’s best team all season, beat Atrisco Heritage 56-42 in the boys’ 5A title game.
It was Valley’s first championship in 18 years, and first on Albuquerque soil in 49 years.
Both teams were sparked by all-state guards.
The Vikings’ senior duo of Joe Anaya and Adonis Saltes were named to 5A’s all-state first team, as was Volcano Vista’s Hannah Fenske – and Cibola’s Kim Chapman.
Valley finished its season 27-2 as its senior-laden group – many of whom were part of Valley’s No. 1-seeded football team just a few months earlier – thrilled a packed Pit, and the North Valley.
Volcano Vista’s girls, however, were not expected to win it all, but then the Hawks, led by the outstanding play of Fenske, stunned undefeated – and nationally ranked – Clovis in the semifinals.
St. Pius’ boys made a spirited defense of its 2013 title, reaching the Class 4A semis before losing to Los Lunas.
The entire winter sports season was a harvest of trophies for area schools.
Cibola’s boys swimming team won a state title, the first for the Cougars in that sport, while Rio Rancho placed third at the Albuquerque Academy Natatorium.
Rio Rancho’s wrestlers ended a three-year drought by capturing the 2014 Class 5A title at the Santa Ana Star Center.
Orlando Gutierrez (138 pounds) and Miguel Barreras (160) both won individual state titles, their second in a row, for Rio Rancho.
As usual, the Rio West area had multiple individual wrestling champions.
No one was more impressive than Volcano Vista senior Mike Budick, who won (and pinned his foe) every match at 220 pounds. And the Hawks also had a champ in Nate Sierra at 182. Volcano placed third as a team, behind Rio Rancho and Rio Grande.
Cleveland had more state champions – three – than anyone: Noah Mirabal at 106, Trey Nicoley at 113 and Jesse Nieto at 145.
Valley’s Gabe Lucero, one of three non-No. 1 seeds to win state, captured the 132-pound division. He beat his cousin in the final.
St. Pius freshman Gavino Hernandez was a surprise champion at 106 pounds in 4A. He entered the state tournament as a No. 6 seed.
Valley’s dance team won its second straight 5A state title and eighth in nine years.
Notah, Stars, Sol
Notah Begay III in March announced the introduction of the Rio Grande Charity Slam golf tournament at Santa Ana Golf Club, with celebrities and golfing names on the invite list, including former Lobo Brian Urlacher. It was played Friday.
Begay said he is hopeful Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez of Roswell will join the event next year, as well as his former Stanford teammate, Tiger Woods.
- The West Side inherited a new professional soccer team in January.
The Albuquerque Sol of the USL Premier Development League announced its arrival, and a partnership with St. Pius X High School, where the team played its home games during the spring and summer.
The city hopes the Sol, if successful, could portend a future placement of a Major League Soccer franchise in New Mexico.
- Much lamented Chamisa Hills Country Club, now Club Rio Rancho, finally was sold this year. It went for an undisclosed price to Jhett Browne, the owner of Albuquerque’s Farmers Market produce stores.
Browne told the Journal that he already had invested $2 million in the purchase price and improvements since he took over.
Browne said he hopes to turn the golf course, which had in recent years fallen into a state of extreme disrepair, into one of the area’s best layouts once again.
- Although the high schools don’t play out there anymore, the New Mexico Tournament Soccer Complex on the Santa Ana Pueblo this month hosted the U.S. Youth Soccer Region IV (West) Championships.
The event featured scores of top boys and girls teams in U12-U19 age groups from New Mexico, Alaska, Arizona, Northern California, Southern California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.
- Cibola High School inducted two new members into its Hall of Fame: point guard Connie Vau (now Connie Limon) and one of the best wrestlers in the metro area’s history, Steve Yarbrough.
There were more state championships as the weather heated up and the athletes moved outdoors.
Rio Rancho’s softball team dropped only one game all year to a New Mexico school, and the Rams beat Oñate for the Class 5A title in May at Lobo Field. The team’s best player, Nicole Pendley, was chosen as the state’s player of the year by Gatorade. Because she also won the state javelin competition (on the same day as the state softball championship game), Pendley also got her face into Sports Illustrated.
Cleveland’s boys, and Bosque School’s girls, won golf championships – the Storm in Socorro, the Bobcats in Las Cruces.
And the Storm’s Dominique Galloway won her second straight individual crown in girls golf.
Cleveland’s boys track and field team won state for the third consecutive season, blitzing the competition in May at the UNM complex. Volcano Vista and Rio Rancho rounded out the top three. The Cleveland girls and St. Pius girls both placed third at state track.
First-team all-state baseball players from the Rio West area were Marcus Martinez and Angelo Lujan of Rio Rancho, and Daniel Herrera and Reyes Kahn of Volcano Vista.
Softball first-team selections were Rio Rancho’s Nicole Pendley, Jessie Roane and Venessa Gallegos, and Volcano Vista’s Taylor Sargent.
After the school year, the Journal selected Volcano Vista’s Budick and Fenske as its male and female Athletes of the Year for the 2013-14 school year.
- Volcano’s Budick and Cleveland’s Mirabal were named to New Mexico’s “Dream Team,” wrestling’s version of an all-state squad.
- The New Mexico Stars in March played their third season of indoor football at the Santa Ana Star Center. New Mexico competes in the Lone Star Football League.
- Jeanne Fairchild, heralded as one of New Mexico’s top volleyball players in the last generation, was hired by her alma mater, St. Pius, to coach its program.
- St. Pius junior guard Natalie Zamora was a first-team all-state choice in 4A girls basketball.
- Bernalillo High hired a new head football coach in Trent Spencer, a 45-year-old who had previously been a head coach in Wingate, Laguna Acoma and 6-Man Vaughn.
- The city of Albuquerque this spring purchased 81 acres near Community Stadium, a long-expected move. The hope is to create a multiuse park for sports such as soccer and softball (and possibly others) to the site.
- Louisa Mackenzie and Clare Donahue of Bosque School won their third straight doubles championship in Class 1A-3A state tennis.
- Susan Kubala, previously the head girls coach at Del Norte and Sandia, was hired in April to take over the Cleveland High program after Felicia Boatman resigned after last season. Kubala led the Matadors to a state title in 2010.
- Former Rio Rancho pitcher Josh Walker earlier this month was drafted in the 22nd round by the Baltimore Orioles.
- At the state swimming and diving championships in February, Natasha Dark of St. Pius (1-meter diving) and Magnus Holler of Cibola (200-yard freestyle) both broke state records in their events.
- The Bosque girls tennis team and St. Pius boys golf team both finished as state runners-up.
- Former Rio Rancho standout Shelby Pendley and former Volcano Vista pitcher Kelsey Stevens led the University of Oklahoma into the Women’s College World Series.
- St. Pius boys basketball coach Damian Segura was featured (by his sister Melissa) in a lengthy piece by Sports Illustrated.
- All-state (top 6) golfers this year were Galloway, Cleveland’s Paul Montoya and Alejandro Armijo, Volcano Vista’s Rusty Falter, Rio Rancho’s Kyra Plotner, St. Pius’ Patrick McCarthy and Tyrone Thomas, and Sarah Greene and Nicole Spence from Bosque.
- At the U.S. Open local golf qualifier at Twin Warriors Golf Club, Sam Saunders and Kent Jones advanced to the sectional round of qualifying.