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Led by emerging star, Hope dominates in 4A boys; Los Alamos girls prevail

(Click here for Friday’s state championship results.)

The streak busters are now state champions.

Hope Christian’s Class 4A boys state cross country title Friday afternoon was historic, as the Huskies – who went 1-2-3 individually – became the first team other than host Albuquerque Academy or Los Alamos to win state in New Mexico’s second-largest classification in 24 years.

That was Zuni, in 1997.

“Everything,” Hope coach Shane Cleveland said, “just seemed to go right. This was perfectly executed.”

Los Alamos’ girls and a Cottonwood Classical Prep sweep in Class 3A highlighted the first day of the state meet at the Academy. The Class 5A boys (noon) and girls (12:30 p.m.) conclude the meet Saturday.

Class 4A

Cleveland earlier this week favorably compared his superb sophomore, Rendon Kuykendall, with some of the great runners New Mexico has produced in the last decade – including his son, Jericho, and Kirtland Central’s Kashon Harrison.

I don’t think it’s really hit me yet,” Kuykendall said about 30 minutes after the race, and he clearly was more pleased about Hope’s team triumph than his own. “It’s crazy. We’ve dreamed of this for so long.”

Already Kuykendall is rated as one of the top 10th-graders in the country.

“He’s tracking in that direction as one of the greatest New Mexico will ever have had,” Cleveland said. “He has a chance to be one of those great kids.”

Kuykendall (15 minutes, 17.84 seconds) finished 10½ seconds ahead of teammate Eric Scharton, who was 15 seconds ahead of another Hope runner, Cade Martin.

“I knew it would be one of us three,” Kuykendall said.

Hope last weekend ended Academy’s run of 23 straight district championships on largely the same course as Friday’s.

“We could tell, a lot of the Academy guys went hard at district. We were trying to save our legs for today,” Kuykendall said.

The Huskies scored 18 points, 10 ahead of runner-up Los Alamos, which placed four runners in the top nine, led by Wakei Hettinga in fifth place. The host Chargers (37), with Justin Hickey in fourth, were third as a team.

“It’s a long time coming,” Kuykendall said. “It’s surreal.”

• Los Alamos’ girls and Hilltopper Norissa Valdez successfully defended state crowns.

Valdez finished the 3.0-mile course in 19:16.44, nine seconds ahead of Academy’s Emma Patton. Patton’s siter, Katie, passed out about half a mile from the finish when she was running in fourth place, Academy coach Adam Kedge said. Kedge added that she was feeling otherwise OK about 45 minutes after the race concluded.

Los Alamos (23), Academy (35) and St. Pius (54) were the top three teams.

Class 3A

Cottonwood, in Albuquerque’s Northeast Heights, dominated both 3A races. So did its individual champions, senior Justin Howey and junior Alyx Mastor.

Howey (15:59.28) finished 1 minute, 8 seconds ahead of Justin Miller of New Mexico Military Institute. Howey was the 2019 state runner-up.

“When we hit the dirt (on the east side of the course), then I started to pick it up,” said Howey. “We’re a hill team, we were ready for the hills, and that’s where I started to pull away.”

Cottonwood, with four runners in the top nine, scored 14 points to win its first championship in this sport and finished well in front of runner-up Tohatchi (47), with NMMI (52) third.

The Cottonwood girls won state for the second straight season; newcomer Mastor was fourth at her previous state meet, in Class 4A in 2019 with Taos. And she also was third with the Tigers in both 2018 and 2017.

“I was like, OK, fourth time is the charm,” Mastor said

Cottonwood had four of the top five and five of the top seven, including Aubrey Lozoya in third, as the Coyotes (13) were well ahead of runner-up NMMI (46). Bosque School (61) was third.

Class 1A/2A

Gilly Valdez of Peñasco, and Cloudcroft, led by runner-up Max Preslar, were the boys state champions Friday. Quemado finished 30 points back of the Bears.

The Academy for Technology and the Classics in Santa Fe, with four runners in the top 10, edged Pecos 24-30 for the girls’ team title. Vanessa Dominguez of Pecos (20:00.01) was the individual champion.

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