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Volcano Vista’s Stith eager to face Great Southwest’s elite competition

After this Great Southwest, Kjia Stith will be doing the extreme Great Southwest.

First up for Stith is the 43rd annual Great Southwest Track & Field Classic at the University of New Mexico. A handful of New Mexico’s elite athletes, including Volcano Vista’s Stith, will test their mettle against 750 of the country’s best on Saturday as the meet concludes at UNM with the majority of the running finals and all of the field finals.

Stith is the metro and Class 6A state champion at 400 meters, and she’ll be competing at that distance today, in addition to the open 200, plus legs on 4×100 and 4×400 relay teams.

She’s among the seniors here who haven’t picked a college, with New Mexico and Eastern New Mexico her two finalists at the moment.

“I want to (first) figure out what I want to specialize in,” she said. “Whatever they want me to run, I’m a very versatile athlete when it comes to the sprints.”

The Great Southwest is a backyard meet on a track Stith knows well.

Next month, she’s headed very southwest (from New Mexico, anyway) — to Australia for the DownUnder Championships near Brisbane, with about 200 of the total number of 700 athletes coming from American high schools.

She said she was first noticed by a DownUnder representative two years ago, during her sophomore season at Cibola. Stith, who later transferred to Volcano Vista, attended the DownUnder meet last year after her junior season.

But, she’s a self-described military brat — “very much so,” she said, laughing — who has lived in Germany and Belgium, so Australia was simply another adventure.

“You’re born into it,” said Stith, the youngest of five siblings. Her mother Carolyn is retired Air Force and the family moved to New Mexico from Germany three years ago. “So it’s the only life you know, moving around. But it’s definitely prepared me to become an adult. I have learned that I have my own back, always to be prepared for the unexpected, and how to be independent.”

Last year, Stith — who also is proficient with instruments like the tuba and the entire family of clarinets — said she hung with kangaroos and even held a kuala bear. She will turn 18 next month.

And she’s looking forward to going back.

“Australia,” she said, “was kind of a breath of fresh air.”

NOTES: Two of the state’s three most prominent boys track and field athletes are part of Saturday’s program.

Manzano’s Jordan Byrd is running the Elite 100, the Elite 200, plus legs of the 4×100 and 4×200 relays.

“Just putting in the work with these kids and see where I’m at,” Byrd said.

Taos’ Jonah Vigil, who still has his senior year in front of him at Taos High School, is doing the 400, the long jump, plus the 4×200 and 4×400 relays. The 400 is where he ran 46.99 seconds at April’s Marilyn Sepulveda Meet of Champions at UNM, the best time ever posted by a New Mexico athlete at that distance. He said Friday that he hopes to go under 46 seconds today.

Vigil said he hasn’t begun to seriously look at colleges. He believes his appearance at the New Balance Nationals Outdoor meet in Greensboro, N.C., from June 15-17, will raise his profile beyond the region.

The third member of that trio, Jericho Cleveland of Volcano Vista, is not competing at the Great Southwest.

FRIDAY: Colorado’s Anna Hall set a meet — and national — record Friday in the girls’ heptathlon. She scored 5,798 points, shattering the meet record (5,522 from 2008) and the previous national record (5,578, established in 2012).

Hall, who just completed her junior year at Valor Christian High in Highlands Ranch, won four of the seven events: high jump, long jump, 800 and javelin.

St. Pius’ Haley Rizek finished fifth. Her best individual event, not surprisingly, was the 100-meter hurdles in which she placed third.

La Cueva’s Ryan Allin was 11th in the boys’ decathlon, which also ended Friday.

SATURDAY’S SCHEDULE: Most of the prominent running finals don’t begin until 5:30 p.m., but there is a full program starting at 11 a.m. The field events start at 10:30 a.m. with the boys javelin; Albuquerque Academy state champion Teagun Glenn will be among the throwers. The field events will be ongoing all day and into the evening.