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Cross country: Mayoral, Harrison grab meet titles, again

Mayoral, Harrison grab meet titles.

That was the headline in this newspaper following the University of New Mexico Cross Country Invitational a year ago.

It doesn’t need changing.

Amanda Mayoral, Cleveland’s dynamite senior, and Kashon Harrison, Kirtland Central’s talented junior, on Saturday morning repeated as champions at the UNM meet, the first major gathering of the year for many of the state’s top prep standouts.

Harrison had a terrific run of 15 minutes, 40.50 seconds at the UNM North Golf Course. Mayoral, seeking a third consecutive Class 6A championship in November, won by nearly 20 seconds, finishing in 18:29.40.

GIRLS: It was a metro sweep at the top, with Mayoral crossing 19½ seconds in front of St. Pius’ Jacque Piñon. Eldorado’s Jasmine Turtle-Morales finished third, and Alisa Meraz-Fishbein of Albuquerque High was fourth.

Mayoral hasn’t lost a cross country race since she was a freshman.

“I am very pleased,” said Mayoral. “Training has been going better than it ever has, and I’m excited to see where the rest of the season goes.”

Mayoral will run in the Storm’s home meet on Sept. 16, but she will miss the Albuquerque Academy Invite the following week as she takes an official visit to Oklahoma State. The Cowboys and UNM both are at the top of the list for the moment.

She already appeared in her usual dominant form, however, on a perfect morning to run.

“This one race is kind of an icebreaker,” Mayoral said. “You know you can’t expect too much.”

Albuquerque Academy’s girls had four in the top 18 and easily won the team championship with 82 points. Eldorado (110) and Rio Rancho (130) were next in the standings, with Cleveland fourth.

BOYS: Harrison, Class 5A’s top boy, was nearly 14 seconds in front of Volcano Vista’s Jericho Cleveland on Saturday. Cleveland finished in 15:54.20. David Apodaca of Cleveland finished third, and the Storm had two runners in the top six.

But that was not enough to stop Academy from claiming the team title with 115 points. That was 11 in front of Cleveland. El Paso Americas and Kirtland Central tied for third with 168 points.

About two miles into this 5,000-meter (3.1 miles) race, Harrison began to push out and create some separation between he and Cleveland.

“We were slowing down,” Harrison said, “and I wanted to take the lead. That’s when I got motivated to run.”

The middle mile, Cleveland said, was where he perhaps expended too much energy, and didn’t have enough in the tank to run down Harrison.

“I’m actually really happy with my time,” said Cleveland, who finished fourth at state last year, but is 6A’s favorite this season as the three who were ahead of him all graduated. “Because that means I’ll peak at a later time.”

COLLEGE: A pair of New Mexico Lobos who ran unattached on Saturday — Alexander Palm and Weini Kelati — captured the college race.

Palm, a senior from Sweden, finished in 15:19.50, Kelati in 16:59.80. Kelati’s win in particular was impressive.

“I haven’t raced for a year,” said the diminutive native of Eritrea, an African nation along the Red Sea that is roughly the size of Pennsylvania. She is a freshman at UNM who competed in high school in Leesburg, Va. “You don’t know where you are (at competitively).”

The team champion was based on mixed results between the men and women. UNM (12) won the meet, with Fresno State (36) second, followed by New Mexico Highlands, New Mexico State and UNLV.

Collins Kurui of Highlands placed second individually for the men; Lilian Koech of UTEP was 33 seconds behind Kelati in the women’s race.