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RIO RANCHO – The start of the high school cross country season might just have birthed a rivalry.
Cleveland freshman Leah Futey, the Class 5A state runner-up to Eldorado’s Jasmine Turtle-Morales last November, made it abundantly clear Saturday morning that she’s coming after the Eagles senior.
Futey and Albuquerque Academy junior Justin Hickey were the individual winners at the Cleveland Invitational.
GIRLS: Futey didn’t beat Turtle-Morales once last season, but on Saturday, Futey crossed the finish line inside the football/soccer stadium eight seconds in front of her.
Futey finished in 18 minutes, 45.25 seconds. Turtle-Morales was timed in 18:53.48.
“I was definitely nervous because of previous races from last year,” said Futey. “I had a plan of trying to pressure her around the 2-mile mark, if I was feeling good, but it happened earlier.”
Indeed, it was almost at the halfway mark of the 3-mile race that Futey began to inch in front of Turtle-Morales around Cleveland’s relatively flat course.
Saturday was the first of a handful of meets that will feature both runners this season.
There was one consolation prize for Turtle-Morales: The Eagles defeated Albuquerque Academy, 82-84, for the team championship. Laurynn Sisneros placed 10th for Eldorado, Susanna Wollard 13th.
For the Chargers, it was a terrific result, since their varsity roster is almost completely new. All their runners placed between 14th and 19th place. And Academy’s best runner, Grace Archibeck, did not even compete Saturday. She was dealing with an illness.
Volcano Vista’s Isabella Schrader placed third individually, Albuquerque High’s Emily Schoellkopf was fourth and AHS teammate Vivian Micano was fifth.
BOYS: Hickey and teammates Oliver Pilon and Julian Garcia were running 1-2-3 about midway through the race.
And then Hickey found another gear. And another after that.
By the time he raced down into the stadium from a hill to the north, he was well in front of Hector Sanchez of El Paso Americas.
Hickey’s winning time was 15:49.94. Sanchez was next in 16:08.28, followed by Pilon, La Cueva’s Stevie Salas and Hope Christian’s Eric Scharton.
“Justin just has this knack for racing,” Academy coach Adam Kedge said. “He’s able to keep his cool when everything around him is going crazy.”
With nearly all of the metro’s best runners in this meet – which had the most elite field of teams in its short history – Hickey appreciated the quality of his victory.
Hickey’s first move separated him from his teammates. And his late burst led to the huge margin at the finish.
“I never know who’s gonna show up that day (of a meet),” he said. “I make it up as I go along. … I took a couple of glances back to make sure nobody was catching me.”
Hickey placed sixth at state two years ago, then fourth last year.
“My end goal is state,” he said. “I’m looking at all the other meets as preparation for that.”
Academy’s 41 points were 15 better than Americas. Cleveland, led by Lucas Futey, place third (76). From the Chargers, Jesse Sanchez was seventh and Garcia ninth.
The St. Pius Super Cinco race is Friday afternoon, and many of the teams in Saturday’s field will also be at this meet.
LOBO INVITATIONAL: At UNM’s North Golf Course, Los Alamos’ Norissa Valdez and Nick Gonzalez of El Paso Coronado were the individual champions.
Valdez beat teammate Sophie Chadwick by seven seconds, and another Hilltopper, Lidia Appell, was third.
• In the college open division, UTEP’s Titus Cheruiyot and New Mexico Junior College’s Flomena Asekol ran to victories.
PREP CROSS COUNTRY
Saturday — at Cleveland HS
Team: Albuquerque Academy 41, El Paso Americas 56, Cleveland 71, Hope Christian 126, Sandia 135, Volcano Vista 171, Rio Rancho 184, La Cueva 201, Eldorado 218, St. Pius 307, Albuquerque High 309, Pojoaque Valley 319, Atrisco Heritage 343, Farmington 392.
Individual: 1, Justin Hickey, Academy, 15:49.94; 2, Hector Sanchez, EP Americas, 16:08.28; 3, Oliver Pilon, Academy, 16:11.21; 4, Stevie Salas, La Cueva, 16:12.12; 5, Eric Scharton, Hope Christian, 16:13.28; 6, Lucas Futey, Cleveland, 16:22.67; 7, Jesse Sanchez, Academy, 16:29.04; 8, Jesus Martinez, Cleveland, 16:29.65; 9, Julian Garcia, Academy, 16:31.20; 10, Carmelo Corral, EP Americas, 16:31.71.
Team: Eldorado 82, Albuquerque Academy 84, Cleveland 112, Rio Rancho 124, Hope Christian 136, Volcano Vista 142, El Paso Americas 143, Albuquerque High 165, La Cueva 190, Sandia 279, St. Pius 298, Pojoaque Valley 356, Manzano 357, Farmington 361, Cibola 380.
Individual: 1, Leah Futey, Cleveland, 18:45.25; 2, Jasmine Turtle-Morales, Eldorado, 18:53.48; 3, Isabella Schrader, Volcano Vista, 19:18.13; 4, Emily Schoellkopf, ABQ High, 19:32.45; 5, Vivian Micano, ABQ High, 19:37.17; 6, Mariana Guzman, EP Americas, 19:40.29; 7, Brynn Esplin, La Cueva, 19:44.36; 8, Leah Varela, Rio Rancho, 19:47.40; 9, Simone Chock, Hope Christian, 20:02.27; 10, Laurynn Sisneros, Eldorado, 20:05.45.