Kuykendall, Figueroa take individual cross-country titles - Albuquerque Journal

Kuykendall, Figueroa take individual cross-country titles

Hope Christian’s Rendon Kuykendall crosses the finish line in front, winning the boys competition at Saturday’s Albuquerque Metro Cross Country Championships.
Mike Sandoval/For the Journal

One favorite dusted the field. The other favorite was upset.

The Albuquerque Metro Cross Country Championships were unable to announce team winners on Saturday afternoon at Nusenda Community Stadium due to a glitch with the timing – the team champions should be revealed on Monday, a member of the Albuquerque Public Schools athletic department said – but the meet did crown the top individuals.

With University of New Mexico coach Joe Franklin among the spectators, Hope Christian junior Rendon Kuykendall won by an impressive 34 seconds, while Albuquerque High freshman Dani Figueroa overtook Cleveland’s Leah Futey late in the race to capture first place in the girls’ meet.

Figueroa had finished second to Futey at last month’s Rio Rancho Jamboree, and she was chasing Futey, the Cleveland High junior, throughout most of Saturday’s race on a breezy but sunny day.

Futey went right to the front and stayed there for the first two-plus miles. On the longest hill on the course, Figueroa finally caught Futey and passed her briefly.

“On the hill, my coaches were telling me I should try to put in a kick there,” Figueroa said. “So I put in a kick. It’s always been my strategy to push on the hills, because everyone else just tries to keep the same pace.”

On the ensuing downhill, Futey regained the lead,

“I knew it was gonna be hard,” Figueroa said. “Just like the course in general. Leah is a really good runner so she’s gonna take advantage, but I was trying to run the best I could.”

As the duo entered the track stadium for the finish, which was several hundred meters, Figueroa kicked again, passing Futey for good. She finished in 19 minutes, 12.83 seconds. Futey’s time was 19:19.30.

“I realized there was just 400 meters left and I gave it all I got,” Figueroa said.

For Figueroa, it was the first varsity victory of her young career.

“Pretty cool,” she said, smiling.

La Cueva’s Ariana Thiel-Hadjilambrinos was third, Carysa Marquez of Volcano Vista fourth and Emma Patton of Albuquerque Academy fifth.

Futey was coming off a sixth-place finish the previous weekend at the Chile Pepper Festival in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

• Kuykendall, in his first major race in the metro area this season – and in his first appearance at metros – finished about 250 meters in front of Sandia’s Steven West, who continues to be one of Class 5A’s best and most consistent runners.

“I remember being here my freshman year, and seeing (the meet),” said Kuykendall, the defending Class 4A state champion. “I was like, this is a really cool meet, I wish we could run in it.”

It had been a few years since the Huskies competed at metros.

But Kuykendall went to the front quickly, and cemented his status as Albuquerque’s premier prep runner with his victory on the metro course that runs about 3 miles and 100 feet.

“I’m glad to have a solid race here, in front of everybody, and race with the best guys in the metro,” he said.

His winning time was 15:54.95. West finished in 16:30.66. Dawson Gunn of Rio Rancho, Isaac Tucker Scott of Sandia and Naseem Dhaouadi of Eldorado rounded out the top five.

The giant pre-state race at Albuquerque Academy is next Saturday, with a huge field, the largest of the regular season, expected.


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