While my overall high school year-ender column is on the menu for next weekend, some reflections on the flurry of spring state tournaments:
TRACKING DEVICE: Some of the metro’s most prominent track and field athletes said their goodbyes on Saturday as they now transition to the Division I careers ahead of them.
Volcano Vista’s Jericho Cleveland was the high-point athlete in Class 6A, a rare achievement for a distance runner. Amanda Mayoral of Cleveland – like Volcano’s Cleveland – won the distance trifecta and both dazzled in the process.
Haley Rizek of St. Pius had a terrible fall in the 100-meter hurdles, and crawled to the finish line. And then she won two other state titles later in the day. Grit, to the nth degree.
The La Cueva girls were sitting about 10 rows up at the finish line Saturday, powerless as they watched Cleveland’s 4×400-meter relay team – knowing that a third-place finish by the Storm (who very much wanted to send out retiring coach Tim Flores with a team victory) would cost the Bears a blue trophy, and fourth or less would give La Cueva a blue trophy. Cleveland was fifth.
And then there was Jordan Byrd. Not sure what he’ll do with all his first-place medals from these last four years at Manzano, but his talents, his kindness and his humanity will be sorely missed around here.
ALL IN THE FAMILY: The spring championship push began with the Corleys of Eldorado, the Hootmans of Albuquerque Academy and the Fulgenzis of Robertson – among others – earning sibling bling at the state tennis tournament.
The Trotter brothers from Farmington, Sean and Tim, each coached their Scorpion teams – Sean with baseball, Tim with softball – into state championship games. (I was particularly gratified that Farmington returned to the baseball summit. This generation of players are not old enough to remember when Farmington, Carlsbad and Eldorado ruled the state’s largest division. From 1998-2002, every title went to that triumvirate.)
The baseball coaches in Saturday night’s 6A final, Gerard Pineda and Mike McGaha, coached their sons – Jack Pineda and Cody McGaha – for the final time. The bond between baseball coaches and their sons is a powerful one indeed.
But mostly I am thinking of the Armijo brothers from Cleveland. Alejandro, the senior, was the state runner-up. His younger brother, Enrique, was in line to win state until he realized that he had signed for an incorrect scorecard on Tuesday in Farmington.
To his credit, he alerted officials of the error and, in essence, disqualified himself. I was reminded by someone as all this unfolded at Piñon Hills Golf Course that Enrique had been recognized for his sportsmanship during his freshman year by the New Mexico Activities Association.
In a C-team basketball game against Eldorado, a ball had gone out of bounds and the officials were huddling and trying to determine whose ball it was. Armijo walked over. It was off me, he told them.
Everyone felt horribly for this kid, myself included. He was pretty torn up about this, tear-filled and heartbroken. This is a side of high school sports I don’t often illustrate but a side I encounter regularly. I hope Enrique realizes that he proved himself (again) to be a shining example for others to follow.
RIDDLE ME THIS: I confess, I couldn’t tell you what constitutes an illegal softball pitch.
But there is something that seems off regarding Saturday’s Volcano Vista-Las Cruces two-game championship finale that decided the 6A title, two games in which the Hawks were repeatedly penalized for throwing an illegal pitch.
Hawks coach J.J. Garcia told the Journal’s Geoff Grammer that someone from Las Cruces (an umpire?) said that pitchers here in Albuquerque aren’t being taught proper pitch mechanics.
There is some murkiness on this issue that needs hammering out. For players and umpires alike.
LEAVING, BUT NOT REALLY: Amidst all these state events, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the state track meet was the last time – for the immediate future, anyway – we are going to see Highland and Valley competing in a postseason event in New Mexico’s largest classification.
Highland’s boys once were a track powerhouse. Dynastic, even. But the Hornets didn’t score a single point this year at the 6A meet. That saddens me, especially since one of its all-time greats, Bobby Newcombe, was part of the narrative on Saturday, and a reminder of Highland’s past glory.
Highland opened in 1949, Valley in 1954. These are the second and third oldest among the 13 public high schools in APS. It won’t be quite the same with them moving down a class for at least the next two school years.
Will we seem them again among the big schools someday? I sincerely hope we do.
I fear that we will not.