The second and final day of the state cross country meet belonged to “Lolo Bird” and a COVID-19 survivor.
Eldorado’s Laurynn Sisneros and Piedra Vista’s Makua Harvey were individual champions in the Class 5A meet Saturday afternoon at Albuquerque Academy, while the Cleveland boys and Rio Rancho girls took home blue trophies.
GIRLS: “Lolo Bird” is the nickname given Sisneros by her mother. Sisneros had Lolo written in black capital letters on the back of one her calves. Bird was written on the other.
And on Saturday, Sisneros, with a winning time of 18 minutes, 35.78 seconds, finished about 22 seconds ahead of friend and defending state champ Leah Futey of Cleveland.
“I’ve been stressing about (this race) all week,” said Sisneros. “It’s my senior year, and I really wanted to make my team proud.”
Sisneros and Futey trained quite a bit together during the lengthy pandemic offseason.
“Leah is like my bestie, I love that girl so much,” said Sisneros, who ran sixth at state in 2019.
Sisneros began to pull away about a mile into the 3.0-mile course at the Academy. Futey said she felt good early, “and then kind of fell back.”
Tessa Holderman of Rio Rancho was third individually, but she could barely contain her enthusiasm as the Rams earned the blue trophy.
The team standings were fairly compressed. Rio Rancho, in winning state for the first time since 2015, finished nine points ahead of Eldorado, 35-44. Alamogordo was a point back of the Eagles in third place.
“We have been talking about this for the past two weeks,” Holderman said. “We did it for each other.”
Rio Rancho coach Sal Gonzales credited the work of Violet Francisco, who finished ninth overall, as key for the Rams. Normally, she runs fourth for the Rams at meets but finished third for her team Saturday. Eldorado’s third runner, by contrast, finished in 16th place.
“There’s a reason a lot of kids who should have been here aren’t here,” Gonzales said of his self-starting group of five that ran Saturday and earned the right to compete at state. “Those girls … completely overachieved from last March to this March. It’s just unbelievable. This is probably one of the best stories of my career.”
BOYS: For the second straight season, Piedra Vista had the individual champion, as Harvey – who overcame a debilitating bout with COVID-19 back in January – had a late kick over the final 60 meters to edge Cleveland’s Ricardo Rangel-Valencia.
“I found a special gear,” Harvey said. “I was hungry to get that win.”
Harvey finished in 15:49.91. Rangel-Valencia’s time was 15:51.69. Rangel-Valencia, in his first season running cross country for the Storm, had overtaken Harvey for the lead with about 150 meters to go.
“He did the same thing to me at district (last week),” said Harvey, who is the second straight Panther to be 5A boys champion, following Triston Charles in 2019. “In my mind, I told myself, if I don’t push right now, it’s gonna haunt me.”
Said Rangel-Valencia, “I kicked, but he came out tough, and did a really good job.”
Clovis’ Jerrick Maldonado finished third. He was a close third behind Harvey and Rangel-Valencia as the three entered Richard A. Harper Stadium at the Academy, but didn’t have the legs to catch either of the leaders.
Meanwhile, Cleveland’s boys won their fourth straight big-school championship. The Storm finished four points (31-35) ahead of rival Rio Rancho, which had defeated Cleveland last week at district.