Bahozhoni Church, in one form or another, has been a factor in every 3,200-meter race he’s run this season.
On Thursday, he broke through with his most important result of the spring.
The Albuquerque High senior, facing a stellar field of peers on the first day of the Albuquerque Metro Championships at Nusenda Community Stadium, broke a school record and routed his challengers in the 2-mile race in the late afternoon.
Church, who signed recently with Grand Valley State in Michigan, the NCAA Division II national cross country champion last fall, finished in 9 minutes, 28.64 seconds, an AHS school record.
He finished 11 seconds in front of runner-up Rendon Kuykendall of Hope Christian. And Church really pulled away from Kuykendall over the final two laps.
“The last 800, I noticed from Rendon’s arm movements that he was getting kind of tired,” Church said. “That, along with his breathing pattern. So I used that as motivation to just go, because I felt good today.”
The race also featured Steven West of Sandia and Dawson Gunn of Rio Rancho; Gunn finished third, West a distant fourth in what was for him a rare struggle.
The girls’ 3,200 provided an unusually thrilling finish. Volcano Vista’s Carysa Marquez tried valiantly to run down leader Gracey Lovato of Rio Rancho over the final 50 meters; at the finish, Lovato’s time was 11:39.52. That was a scant .03 ahead of Marquez (11:39.55).
Many of the same athletes that won field-event titles at last weekend’s Harper meet at Albuquerque Academy were back atop the podium Thursday.
That included Cleveland’s Stratton Shufelt in the boys shot put (53-7¾), La Cueva’s Dylan Lee in the boys long jump (23-11¼), Cleveland’s Jaylee Gandert in the girls javelin (119-5) and Eldorado’s Trinity Whitley (5-2) in the girls high jump.
Rio Rancho’s Sterling Glenn had another victory in the girls shot put (41-11) and was the only competitor in the event to surpass 40 feet.
“Honestly, I think for me, I’m really hoping everything will come together at the right time,” said Glenn, who started her prep career at Academy before transferring to Rio Rancho. “I think everything is lining up as it should.”
There were a couple of surprise winners among the eight field event finals held on Thursday.
Rio Rancho’s Carter Bergsten’s 12-foot, 6-inch mark, a personal record, won the boys pole vault. Earlier, he had barely cleared 10 feet, getting over the bar on his final attempt.
“It’s always the first clear that gets me over the mental block,” Bergsten said. “The first jump always gets me. After that, it’s always smooth.”
Academy’s Franklin Rambo, in the boys javelin — and is there better marriage of name and event than this one? — was an even more unlikely winner. But his throw of 162 feet, 9 inches was best.
“This is very surprising,” he admitted. “I was hoping to just finish on the podium, top five. I had not thought that I would hit 162.”
Gigi Galles of Academy, also a champ at the Harper meet, won the girls long jump (overtaking Volcano Vista’s Jaelyn Bates) on her next-to-last jump, and then broke her own school record on her final attempt in the finals, which was 19-0¼.
Cleveland’s Kennedy Ulmer was runner-up in the girls shot put and javelin.
NOTES: One of the notable absentees Thursday was La Cueva junior sprinter Christian Buzzard, who has been the top 100-meter runner this spring among the metro area athletes. He apparently became injured midway through Saturday’s session at the Harper meet and did not compete in either the 100 or 200 metro prelims on Thursday. … Cleveland’s Evan Wysong earned the top seed in the 200 and the third seed in the 100, and he also placed second in the long jump. … Day 2 of the metro meet picks up again at 4:15 p.m. Friday with the six remaining field events. The running program is at 5:30 p.m.
Albuquerque Metro Championships
Thursday — Nusenda Community Stadium
Individual: 3,200—1, Bahozhoni Church, Albuquerque High, 9:28.64; 2, Rendon Kuykendall, Hope Christian, 9:39.43. Pole vault—1, Carter Bergsten, Rio Rancho, 12-6; 2, Lucas Lopez, La Cueva, 12-0. 4×800—1, Cleveland, 8:22.48; 2, Volcano Vista, 8:28.88. Javelin—1, Franklin Rambo, Albuquerque Academy, 162-9; 2, Josiah Escobedo, West Mesa, 160-9. Long jump—1, Dylan Lee, La Cueva, 23-11½; 2, Evan Wysong, Cleveland, 21-9½. Shot put—1, Stratton Shufelt, Cleveland, 53-7¾; 2, Charles Sanchez, Cleveland, 49-7.
Individual: 3,200—1, Gracey Lovato, Rio Rancho, 11:39.52; 2, Carysa Marquez, Volcano Vista, 11:39.55. Long jump—1, Gigi Galles, Albuquerque Academy, 19-0¼; 2, Jaelyn Bates, Volcano Vista, 18-9½. High jump—1, Trinity Whitley, Eldorado, 5-2; 2, Victoria Marthaler, La Cueva, 5-2. Shot put—1, Sterling Glenn, Rio Rancho, 41-11; 2, Kennedy Ulmer, Cleveland, 36-5¾. 4×800—1, Volcano Vista, 9:55.58; 2, Cleveland, 10:07.98. Javelin—1, Jaylee Gandert, Cleveland, 119-5; 2, Kennedy Ulmer, Cleveland, 110-0.