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Preps: Eldorado’s Turtle-Morales leads way at cross country meet

The course being used for St. Pius’ Super Cinco cross country meet is most certainly to the liking of Eldorado’s Jasmine Turtle-Morales and Hobbs’ Patrick Colborn.

The two runners on Friday evening won this meet for the second straight year, with the meet finishing just before dark.

Turtle-Morales, a junior, had Albuquerque High’s Alisa Meraz-Fishbein just off her shoulder as the girls’ No. 1 runners completed the first loop around the St. Pius campus.

But Turtle-Morales found another gear into the final third of the race, leaving Meraz-Fishbein far behind as she crossed the finish line in a winning time of 15 minutes, 18.03 seconds over a relatively flat and — by cross country standards — somewhat shorter course than what runners normally see from week to week.

“I wanted to make my move earlier,” Turtle-Morales said, “but I didn’t know if she was with me.”

There was a brief section of cement on the course as it reached the southern edge of the campus. It was there that Turtle-Morales started to gain separation from the rest of the field.

Meraz-Fishbein finished in 15:44.28. Sandia’s Olivia Salter, Eldorado’s Reily McClanahan and Rio Rancho’s Reina Paredes rounded out the top five.

St. Pius’ meet has all the No. 1 runners compete together in the final race of the day (Turtle-Morales is the No. 1 for the Eagles), so McClanahan’s finish certainly impressed.

The team titles were awarded based on overall combined times by the five runners in their respective races.

Eldorado’s five girls combined to post a time of 1 hour, 22 minutes and 36.70 seconds. That was a little less than 2 minutes in front of AHS, with Rio Rancho, Sandia and Volcano Vista next.

Colburn doesn’t necessarily talk like your ordinary cross country runner. During his victory, he said, there were a couple of instances where he pulled out in front, only to slow up and allow the chase pack to close the gap. He led virtually the entire way.

And then he’d pick up his pace again.

“I heard them grunting and breathing heavily,” he said with a smile. “Then I throw in a little surge, and let them catch up again. It messes with their heads.”

Colborn won in 13:20.57. Sean Dwyer of Eldorado was closest to him, finishing three seconds behind. Stevie Salas of La Cueva, Epherem Zerai of Sandia Prep and Daniel Beam of Rio Rancho were the rest of the top five individuals.

But Rio Rancho won the team portion of the meet, with a combined time of 1:10:55.84. Volcano Vista was roughly 15 seconds behind. Hobbs was third, then Eldorado and Albuquerque High.

Colborn had set the course record with his win a year ago, but the course was definitely slower for runners this year, both he and Turtle-Morales noticed.

“I like how fast it is,” Colborn said of the course, which began on the northwest corner of Campo de Jorge, which is what St. Pius named the giant grass field on the west side of campus. It is named for the school’s legendary boys soccer coach, Jorge Tristani.

“It’s such a fun meet,” Colborn said.

Friday was the season-opening meet for the city’s public high schools. The next major meet involving a majority of the metro schools is Academy’s meet Sept. 28.

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