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Prep notes: Dunnell is coming home to Manzano; Benjamin state hoops player of year

Manzano is turning to a state champion coach, and a Monarchs alum, to take over their boys basketball program.

Andrew Dunnell, who graduated from Manzano in 2006 and who coached Belen to a state title in 2018, is the Monarchs’ new head coach.

He takes over from Dominick Romero, who recently announced his retirement.

“I had it great at Belen,” said Dunnell, 32. “I had a good job there. It was hard to leave, but this one was hard to pass up.”

Dunnell led Belen to a blue trophy in his first season; he just completed his fourth season.

Now he’s coming home.

“I know that (Manzano) is kind of in a rebuilding mode right now,” he said. “(There will be) a lot of getting kids to come out, get them back and excited, as it was when I played there.”

Dunnell previously spent seven years coaching at Manzano as an assistant under Greg Brown, Travis Julian and David Gibson.

“I’ve always had a connection there,” he said. “Moving up in class and getting to move back to Albuquerque? Those are all things that went into my decision.”

TENNIS: The state singles and doubles tournament is this week at Albuquerque Academy, with the quarterfinal and semifinal matches on Thursday, followed by all the finals on Saturday afternoon.

Singles for Class 1A-4A and Class 5A are 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Thursday, with the finals at 2 p.m. Saturday. Doubles in 1A-4A and 5A are 12:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. Thursday, with the championship matches at noon Saturday.

The team portion of the state tournament is next week. La Cueva’s boys and girls (5A), along with Albuquerque Academy’s boys — seeking an incredible 18th straight title — and Los Alamos’ girls (1A-4A) are No. 1 seeds.

STATE FORMATS: New Mexico Activities Association executive director Sally Marquez told the Journal on Monday that overnight travel — which had been strictly prohibited for high school teams and individual athletes as it relates to games or competitions during this pandemic-condensed calendar — will be permitted for the final 2½ weeks.

There are not going to be any dramatic changes to the postseason formats already in place. State golf, for example, will stay at 18 holes (on Monday, June 21) for this spring instead of 36 holes over two days as it normally would look.

Track and field is one sport that should benefit.

With overnight travel now possible, the NMAA will be able to start state track programs earlier in the day in an effort to beat as much of the June heat as they can.

Each of the five classes in track and field will conduct its state meet on a single day: Class 1A on Thursday, June 17; 2A on June 18; 3A on June 19; 4A on June 25; and 5A on Saturday, June 26. All meets will be at the University of New Mexico Track and Field Stadium.

  • Fans who have been enduring the heat will welcome this news, which also become official on Monday: concession stands will finally be opened for spectators for the next few weeks.

BENJAMIN HONORED: Gatorade has chosen Las Cruces High junior guard Deuce Benjamin as its New Mexico boys basketball Player of the Year for the 2021 spring season.

The 6-foot-1 Benjamin averaged 27 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.5 assists in leading the Bulldawgs to the Class 5A state championship game last month at the Pit.

The soon-to-be senior already has multiple Division I offers.

THIS AND THAT: Following a phone call with assistant coach Rocky Long, La Cueva inside linebacker Hunter Haemker has been offered a scholarship by the University of New Mexico. … Kara Thompson, who recently led Rio Rancho to a big-school state bowling championship, has signed a letter of intent to compete for Kansas Wesleyan University.

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