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Hilltopper girls look to return to 4A summit

Los Alamos hurdler and high jumper Bailey Yost is one of a number of Hilltoppers girls track and field athletes who are at the top of Class 4A in their events, according to MileSplitNM. (Courtesy of Blake Wood)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

There has not been a lot of room for other athletes when looking at the top times and best distances for the Class 4A high school girls track and field results.

Los Alamos pretty much dominates the charts.

Of the 20 primary events, Hilltoppers have the top seed in all but five, according to

That, of course, guarantees nothing when the state championship meet rolls around. The small schools go Thursday through Saturday, with 4A on June 25 and 5A June 26, all at the UNM Track and & Soccer Complex.

“Truthfully, the group of girls that we have, we have a really strong girls team,” said coach Ernest Martinez. “The girls that have been here, the results are speaking for themselves. They have dedicated themselves throughout this madness of COVID.”

While the ultimate goal is a blue trophy – Los Alamos has not won it since 2012 – simply preparing the athletes to be performing at their best is the immediate objective.

“The way I’m trying to build this program, we try not to be so consumed with results,” said Martinez, who is in his second season with the team. “Expectations for the girls are that they continue to progress and run our best times at the end of the year. Continue to grow and continue to improve, and the results will take care of themselves.”

The Hilltoppers came into training in January fairly disappointed about the virus’s disruption of the 2020 season as they anticipated a good finish then, as well.

“Absolutely,” said recently graduated hurdler and high jumper Bailey Yost. “It was one of my big drivers for working so hard this season and even the whole year between last season and this year. I kept thinking about the season I didn’t get to have. I put in a lot of work on my own.”

That’s fairly representative of the rest of the team, as well, she said.

“We’ve known for a long time that we have a really strong team but, this year, it’s all coming together really well,” Yost said. We have a really deep team. Almost every event has somebody who can excel. That automatically gives us an advantage.”

Still, with the virus reducing numbers to a degree, the program needed girls who were willing to sacrifice and train at maximum levels, said rising junior middle-distance runner Emma Montoya.

“After one of the first practices, coach told us, ‘You need to be engaged in working hard every day. At the end of the day, somebody is going to be on top of the podium. It’s up to you to be there. We know we’re on top of the leaderboards and we know that we can win state.”

Yost has been one of the team’s leaders and has really taken a big step forward with her performance, Martinez said.

“She’s been solid in the past, but she has really elevated her game and her fitness,” he said. “She’s competing at a different level than she normally does.”

And Montoya, along with the other runners from the state championship cross-country team, such as Hailey McDowell, have been contributing significantly.

“Our distance girls, coming off cross-country are a really strong unit,” Martinez said. “They all have been running really well. Hailey McDowell is not a surprise, but a pleasant development because she is now leading the 800 and the two-mile (1,600).”

The sprinters trio of Holly Sanchez, Nyla Lee and Tia Hartzol “have established themselves as some of the premier sprinters in the state,” he said.

And with rising sophomores Angelina Passalacqua, Siena Rolfe and Syana Sanchez also making regular contributions, the Hilltoppers are loaded with top-end talent and are deep throughout the events, meaning another blue trophy could very well be heading up the mesa soon.

“That was something I brought up last year when I took over the team,” Martinez said. “I want to bring titles to Los Alamos. Los Alamos is just always, historically, such a strong program. Having experienced winning state titles in Taos, it’s something I wanted to reestablish here.”