RIO RANCHO, N.M. — (* Tickets to the Oct. 4 RRHS Sports Hall of Fame induction cost $5 in advance, $8 at the door of the RRHS black box theater. Contact RRHS athletics secretary Sylvia Greenbaum at 962-9501 to RSVP or for additional information. There will be refreshments served in the lobby of the PAC following the induction ceremony.)
Headed into the Rio Rancho High School Sports Hall of Fame Friday afternoon as its Class of 2019 are three 2008 graduates, including two who went on to play professionally — Chris Newsome, a star in the Philippines, and Anthony Haase, who played pro baseball before opting for what turned out to be a short career in law enforcement.
Sadly, Haase died in an accident on Idalia Road while on duty with the Rio Rancho Police Department on Oct. 26, 2014, about one year after he joined the force.
Haase and Newsome saw their Rams’ careers highlighted by state championships in 2007 as juniors.
Included in the class, which will be officially inducted* before the Rams’ Homecoming game vs. Cibola and later honored at halftime, are two-sport standout and former Lobo volleyball star Ashley Rhoades, Larry Chavez and Melissa Loiacono-Lee, plus longtime Rio Rancho Observer sports editor Gary Herron.
Chavez, who coached cross country and track & field before becoming athletic coordinator at Cleveland High School — and now sitting in the athletic director’s chair for the district — and Loiacano, who spent time here as the Rams’ athletic trainer, are being inducted in the coaches category. Herron is recognized in the contributor category.
Anthony Haase: The District 1-5A Player of the Year, as well as the State Farm Metro Player of the Year in 2008, he was the 38th round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Rays that June, but opted not to sign because he intended to play collegiately.
He was drafted again, this time by the Texas Rangers, in the 17th round of the 2010 draft and signed with them; he compiled a 4-0 record in 2010 — after two seasons at Cochise Junior College, and was 0-1 with two saves in 2011, both in the rookie league, before the Rangers released him on July 3, 2011.
The hard-throwing right-hander was 5-0 as a junior in the Rams’ 2007 championship season, then 8-2 as a senior.
Chris Newsome: You’d never guess “New-New” didn’t even start playing basketball until he was in seventh grade at Lincoln Middle School, but that’s where his hardwood days began. He progressed fast enough to play on coach Brian Smith’s first varsity team (2005-06) as a sophomore, then was a key member of the high-flying state championship team the next season.
After Newsome’s senior season (2007-08), he headed to New Mexico Highlands University and played three seasons there, then opted to go international and play for a Filipino team, which he qualified for because his mother was Filipino. Playing for the Meralco Bolts, he was named the Philippines Basketball Association’s Rookie of the Year in 2015.
In football, he was an All-State honorable-mention selection at wide receiver as a senior at RRHS, and qualified for the state track & field meet, where he was sixth in the long jump.
Ashley Rhoades: A key cog in the Rams’ championship seasons of 2007 and ’08, she also decided to keep playing basketball in her senior season despite having signed a letter of intent to play volleyball at UNM.
After her days as a Ram, her presence in the front row for the University of New Mexico helped the Lobos go to back-to-back NCAA tournaments. In the summer of 2011, Rhoades was one of 36 collegians selected to the U.S. Women’s National A2 Program roster, helping that prestigious team to the gold medal. She was the starting middle blocker for Team USA Blue.
Later, she served as an assistant for one season at La Cueva High School; spent three seasons assisting the Eastern New Mexico University volleyball team; and then coached volleyball in the 2017 season for the Cibola Cougars.
Larry Chavez: A proud native of Las Vegas, N.M., where he was a three-sport letter-winner for Las Vegas Robertson in cross country, basketball and track, Chavez then headed to Eastern New Mexico University, where he was a four-year letterman for the Greyhounds’ cross country and track teams.
He later coached his favorite sports in Tucumcari and then in Santa Rosa, then became the first cross country and boys track coach brand-new RRHS in 1997.
Chavez announced his retirement from RRHS in the fall of 2007, and then was named as the athletic director at Cleveland High when Randy Adrian retired.
Melissa Loiacono-Lee: A 1988 graduate of Cibola High School, “Miss L” attended the University of New Mexico for her undergraduate degree, and then grad school before spending a season as trainer at Arkansas State.
She became the athletic trainer at RRHS in 1998 and stayed 15 years, developing the sports medicine program, as well as devising the Sports Medicine State Challenge, which her RRHS student trainers won 13 times in 14 years.
She has been the athletic trainer at Sandia High School since she left RRHS.
Gary Herron: It’s doubtful anyone has seen more Rams football games, basketball games, volleyball matches, soccer games and baseball games — and covered more state championship games involving the Rams — than Herron, the Rio Rancho Observer’s one-man sports department since May 2000.
He began his sports writing career at the Valencia County News-Bulletin in 1979. He also did play-by-play on Belen’s KARS-AM radio station, describing Belen and Los Lunas high school athletic contests; he’s also been a “stringer” for the Albuquerque Journal, and you can find his byline in the Journal every year since 1979.