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Strong group of runners returning

Eldorado’s Jasmine Turtle-Morales, here leading the pack in a meet last fall, is part of a strong returning field of high school cross-country runners.

Ordinarily, the prominent opening meet of the high school cross country season occurs at the University of New Mexico. Strong group of runners returning Journal Staff report

Ordinarily, the prominent opening meet of the high school cross country season occurs at the University of New Mexico.

But not this year.

A majority of the metro area’s eiite boys and girls runners will instead open the year at Cleveland High’s invitational on Saturday morning. The boys varsity race is 8:30 a.m., followed at 9 by the girls.

The host Storm is joined all 13 APS programs, plus Albuquerque Academy, St. Pius, Rio Rancho and Hope Christian. The field consists of 23 schools.

The start line is located on the giant grass field, which is immediately east of the football/soccer stadium. The face finishes inside the stadium.

A look at some of the top individuals and teams in the metro area this year:

GIRLS: Eldorado senior Jasmine Turtle-Morales was the dominant metro girl on the course last fall, and she is back this season to defend.

But a good number of her Class 5A pursuers last fall also return, a group that includes Vician Micano and Emily Schoellkopf of Albuquerque High, Brynn Esplin of La Cueva, Laurynn Sisneros of Eldorado, Isabella Schrader of Volcano Vista, and also Leah Futey (arguably the second-best runner in the metro after Turtle-Morales) and the Gonzales sisters, Isa and Mari, all from Cleveland. From Class 4A, junior Grace Archibeck of Academy should be a factor in her division.

Skyler Gee, a senior at Sandia Prep, won the Class 3A state cross country title last season. The runner-up, East Mountain senior Amelia Johnson, also returns.

Eldorado, Cleveland, AHS and La Cueva are among the top local teams.

BOYS: Coming off an outstanding spring on the track and a third-place finish at the state cross country meet last fall, La Cueva junior Stevie Salas appears poised for a big season for the Bears and is perhaps even the 5A favorite.

Junior Justin Hickey and senior Julian Garcia are probably the top returners for powerhouse Academy. Hope Christian junior Eric Scharton was also in the top 10 in the 4A state race last November.

From Cottonwood Classical Prep, Justin Howey, a junior, is expected to be a regular contender.

Cleveland, led by senior Luke Futey, opens as a likely 5A favorite. Rio Rancho, plus Academy and Hope are also considered good squads.

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