It seemed like just a matter of time for Steven West.
He had certainly been trending, the Sandia High School junior. He opened the year with a fourth-place finish at Cleveland’s deep meet, then ran second the following week at St. Pius’ Super Cinco race.
On a scorching hot Friday afternoon near the Sunport, West earned his first victory of the fall cross country season, winning the Highland High Invitational at Bullhead Park. Junior Leah Futey of Cleveland won the girls’ race.
Most of the metro area’s running powers — basically, everyone except Hope Christian and Cottonwood Classical Prep — attended Highland’s meet.
Albuquerque Academy’s girls posted a narrow victory over Rio Rancho. Rio Rancho’s boys had an even narrower (one point) win over the Chargers.
BOYS: West’s dominant winning time was 15 minutes, 54.43 seconds, part of a 1-2 finish for the Matadors with teammate Scott Tucker on a Highland course that measured just a few feet shy of 3 miles.
Tucker finished 35 seconds behind West, in 16:29.32.
West offered a humorous explanation for breaking through Friday.
“I felt really focused for this meet,” he said. “Other meets, I was kind of goofing around. I felt like, this meet I really wanted to get it done.”
“In the previous races,” he said candidly, and with a smile, “I thought it would feel better to goof off for the first two miles and then go to work on the third one.”
No such game plan unfolded on Friday, as West was the runner to beat virtually the entire way.
“I just wanted to get out fast and keep the pace,” he said.
Dawson Gunn of Rio Rancho was third, followed by Joaquin Deprez of Academy and Jude Lucero of Volcano Vista.
Rio Rancho’s boys gained some valuable points with their fourth- and fifth-place finishers for a slim 77-78 win over Academy. Volcano Vista was in the hunt, too, with the Hawks finishing just four points behind the Rams.
GIRLS: Futey’s second victory of the year saw her win comfortably, by 21 seconds over Dani Figueroa of Albuquerque High.
Futey finished in 19:01.21, with Figueroa finishing in 19:22.83. Emma Patton of Albuquerque Academy was third.
“I just started off trying to get a strong first loop,” Futey said. She didn’t run last week and thus felt fresh even on an unusually warm September late afternoon, and she led pretty much the whole way.
Her early-season foil was absent. Volcano Vista freshman Carysa Marquez was noticeably missing Friday; she is resting up for the next major meet on the schedule, the Rio Rancho Jamboree next Saturday.
The Jamboree has been moved up on the schedule; it used to serve as the pre-state race when Rio Rancho was the host for the state meet.
Academy scored 72 points for the team win; the Chargers’ strength at the front, with their top three runners, proved too much for runner-up Rio Rancho (78) to overcome. Albuquerque High was a close third, with 80 points.