James Yodice: The most memorable moments of prep sports in 2022-23 - Albuquerque Journal

James Yodice: The most memorable moments of prep sports in 2022-23

My annual year-ender column is sort like a movie trailer in reverse. Not a peek of what’s ahead, but a reflection of what’s come and gone.

These nine months blow by so quickly. Let’s rewind.

(PSA: The announcement of our All-Metro baseball and softball teams is scheduled next week, and the Journal’s selection for our overall Metro Athletes of the Year, plus our choices for the top metro athlete in each individual sport, are tentatively scheduled the first weekend in June).

OFF THE GRID: Cleveland won its third straight big-school state football title (in a full season) and the Storm continues to creep ever closer to outright dynasty status. In the Class 6A state final, the Storm and La Cueva combined for 136 points at Wilson Stadium in what proved to be a 75-61 victory for Cleveland. It was the most points ever scored in an 11-man state championship game in New Mexico, and the second most in any 11-man game.

The new No. 1 on that list also included La Cueva. The Bears beat West Mesa 89-62, and the combined 151 points was 21 more than No. 2 on the regular-season list.

Artesia won its 31st state championship. Bloomfield won its first.

Raton tailback Cayden Walton broke New Mexico’s single-season rushing record (3,123; the old mark was 3,024 by La Cueva’s Ronnie Daniels in 2010) and also the state’s career rushing record with 7,971 yards (David McGee of Laguna-Acoma was the previous holder, at 7,170).

A note that slipped under the radar: Miranda Sanchez of Valley, also a college-bound wrestler, scored on a 2-point conversion for the Vikings last season, unusual insomuch as girls scoring points at the varsity football level often do so only as placekickers.

HOOPING: The Volcano Vista-Sandia Class 5A boys basketball final was 180 degrees from Cleveland-La Cueva football, although it did have the rare distinction of having brothers Greg Brown (VV) and Danny Brown (Sandia) squaring off at the Pit.

The Hawks and Matadors combined to score just 74 points on the season’s final night as Volcano Vista locked up a back-to-back title with a 43-31 victory at the Pit. It was the lowest scoring boys big-school final — modern era, with classes, or any kind — going back to 1952.

Hobbs’ girls have now played in six straight finals and downed Volcano Vista 52-45 for the 2023 crown. Also that day, Albuquerque Academy’s boys snapped a 29-year championship drought.

The regular season had its share of thrills.

Del Norte senior guard Shane Douma-Sanchez scored 60 points against Eldorado in a January metro tournament game. No boy in Albuquerque ever scored more in a single contest. Bella Hines of Eldorado put up 51 points in a game. Del Norte’s boys and Bernalillo combined to play five overtimes.

CLEAN SWEEP: The state wrestling tournament, the large school division at any rate, was dominated by Albuquerque Public Schools, something not seen in decades.

Volcano Vista’s boys and girls swept the team titles, but it was far more than that as the Hawks, La Cueva and Atrisco Heritage boys went 1-2-3.

Bryson Valdez of Aztec and Niko Trujillo of Cobre became four-time individual state champions.

DUDES DIG THE LONG BALL: The chase for New Mexico’s softball single-season home run record went down to the final couple of weeks.

In the end, Cibola’s Jalyn Montes slugged 20 home runs, which is the new standard. She hit her 20th in the Cougars’ final regular-season game against Atrisco Heritage. Albuquerque High’s Jazmyn Griego finished with 19 dingers.

PITCHING: Cleveland’s boys, a 12 seed, stunned the 5A field by winning the state soccer championship inside its home stadium in November. Eldorado beat Cleveland in penalty kicks in the 5A girls final.

Sandia Prep swept the 1A-3A division and Hope Christian’s undefeated girls, unquestionably New Mexico’s best overall side regardless of class, took the 4A crown. Lovington’s boys, so close in recent years, were at last a first-time state champion in 4A.

FAST FEET: The cross country season was defined by the excellence of Cleveland’s Leah Futey and Sandia’s Steven West, who both ran strong races to win 5A titles. Next? Futey is going to Syracuse, West to the University of New Mexico.

Hope Christian’s Rendon Kuykendall, who signed with Duke, won his third straight 4A boys title, and Los Alamos won both 4A races.

DIAMONDS: Rio Rancho’s Ron Murphy, the state’s all-time winningest baseball coach, collected his fourth championship with the Rams earlier this month. St. Pius repeated in 4A.

Coach Gerard Pineda achieved 300 career wins with La Cueva during the spring. The Bears also took advantage of a new initiative by Albuquerque Public Schools which allowed its spring sport teams to leave the state for a regular-season event so long as the team paid its own expenses. La Cueva went to Phoenix for four games in March.

REMEMBERING: Of course, as we say goodbye to the school year, we also pause to remember some of the people who have passed during the last few months.

The death of Sandia High baseball coach Chris Eaton in November was — and remains — a difficult one to process. Organ Mountain football player Abe Romero died as a result of an on-field incident last season; it shattered the Knights community, and rattled Las Cruces as a whole. Dexter football player Justus Sanders died in an auto accident in September.

Phil Schroer, Cibola’s former boys basketball coach and athletic director, was among those we lost. As were: Jimmy Juarez, an influential coach who led West Mesa to the state championship football game in 1971; Joey Montaño, a coach/AD and former administrator at APS; and former Taos, Roswell, Valley and Rio Rancho boys basketball coach Joe Cantou.

If you never had the chance to watch the colorful Ron Bohls coach basketball, you really missed out. The former Grants boys coach, who led the Pirates to a couple of titles, died last winter.

THIS AND THAT, PART I: La Cueva, undefeated, romped through Class 5A once again, beating Las Cruces High in four sets in November’s Class 5A volleyball final. … Belen was the Class 1A-4A state wrestling champion, by a mere half-point over Bloomfield. … In January, Albuquerque Public Schools contracted with Gamevision (out of Atlanta) to be its new streaming provider for athletic events. … Cleveland boys basketball coach Sean Jimenez, who took the Storm to five Final Fours, two state finals and one championship, unexpectedly resigned. … Albuquerque welcomed two new football programs, Legacy Academy in 8-man and Chesterton Academy in 6-man. … Three coaches with multiple state championships, Eldorado swimming coach Quint Seckler, Centennial volleyball coach Al Rosen and Mayfield football coach Mike Bradley, retired following their seasons; Seckler’s boys won state in his final go-round. … Gadsden made its first playoff appearance in football since 1972.

THIS AND THAT, PART II: For the first time, APS allowed eighth-graders to compete in a varsity sport. … Albuquerque Academy’s boys tennis dynasty showed no signs of slowing down, and earlier this month won its 20th consecutive blue trophy, simply a titanic stretch of excellence and dominance. … Academy’s other dynasty, girls swimming/diving, won state for the seventh consecutive time. … Seven also applies to the number of consecutive boys track and field championships Cleveland has won, and the number of consecutive boys singles tennis titles Eldorado has won. … La Cueva’s boys and girls swept state in both tennis and golf. … In Week 2 of state baseball at the Jennifer Riordan Spark Kindness Sports Complex, a new venue for the postseason, there were two inside-the-park grand slams in a single day. … Carlsbad baseball became the sixth program in the country to win at least 1,400 games. … Joe Butler, a decades-long career as an educator, coach and administrator in New Mexico, was this year’s only inductee into the New Mexico Activities Association Hall of Fame. … Cleveland’s baseball team was forfeited out of the playoffs after a pitcher in Game 3 of the first-round series surpassed the allowed pitch count over a 72-hour period. The team that replaced the Storm, Piedra Vista, got all the way to the semifinals. … Los Alamos not only won both 4A cross country titles, but the Hilltoppers also swept on the track; the girls, in particular, ranked as one of the state’s most dominant teams in any sport in any class, winning the blue trophy by over 100 poiunts.

LASTLY: A hearty congratulations to all the individual and team state champions from this school year (the list of the metro winners accompanies this column), and I most sincerely wish all the graduates well as they enter the next chapter in their lives.

See y’all in August.




FOOTBALL: Cleveland (6A)



BOYS SOCCER: Cleveland (5A), Sandia Prep (1A-3A)

GIRLS SOCCER: Eldorado (5A), Hope Christian (4A), Sandia Prep (1A-3A)


BOYS SWIMMING/DIVING: Eldorado (big schools), Cottonwood Classical Prep (1A-3A)

GIRLS SWIMMING/DIVING: Albuquerque Academy (big schools), Cottonwood Classical Prep (1A-3A)

BOYS WRESTLING: Volcano Vista (5A), Belen (1A-4A)


BOYS BASKETBALL: Volcano Vista (5A), Albuquerque Academy (4A)

SPIRIT: Eldorado (5A cheer), Hope Christian (4A dance)

BOYS GOLF: La Cueva (5A)

GIRLS GOLF: La Cueva (5A), Albuquerque Academy (4A)

BOYS TENNIS: La Cueva (5A), Albuquerque Academy (4A)

GIRLS TENNIS: La Cueva (5A), Albuquerque Academy (4A)



BASEBALL: Rio Rancho (5A), Albuquerque Academy (4A), Sandia Prep (3A)


BOYS CROSS COUNTRY: Steven West, Sandia (5A), Rendon Kuykendall, Hope Christian (4A), Maximo Brito, Cottonwood Classical Prep (3A)

GIRLS CROSS COUNTRY: Leah Futey, Cleveland (5A)

BOYS SWIMMING/DIVING: 200 free/500 free—Nolan Arnholt, Eldorado; 50 free/100 breast—Cole Bettis, Eldorado. (Relays): 200 free, Eldorado (Cole Bettis, Dallin Smith, Nolan Arnholt, Gage Sheldahl); 400 free, Eldorado (Gage Sheldahl, Noah Bonano, Krishna Clarke, Cole Bettis).

GIRLS SWIMMING/DIVING: 200 free—Francesca Benavidez, Eldorado; 200IM/100 back—Reese Hinnerichs, Hope Christian; 1M diving—Chloe Ashe, La Cueva; 500 free—Annabella Marthaler, La Cueva. (Relays): 200 medley, Eldorado (Makaela Perea, Chloe Shaw, Elena Busani, Francesca Benavidez); 400 free, Eldorado (Francesca Benavidez, Aderyn Gibson, Chloe Shaw, Makaela Perea).

BOYS WRESTLING: (Class 5A)—Roman Luttrell, Cleveland (107 pounds); Anthony Lopez, Volcano Vista (114); Marcus Williams, Rio Rancho (121); Noah Jones, Volcano Vista (127); Lorenzo Gallegos, Volcano Vista (133); Mario Tafoya, La Cueva (152); Jack Byers, La Cueva (160); Mason Posa, La Cueva (189); Miguel Andrade, Los Lunas (215); Tyler Finley, West Mesa (HVWT). Class 4A—Ely Gutierrez, Belen (160).

GIRLS WRESTLING: Ashley Smith, Cleveland (114); Marisa Rimbert, Atrisco Heritage (132); Jaden Meadows, Sandia (152); Bre Samora, Manzano (165).

BOYS TENNIS: Philip Bosin, Eldorado (5A singles); Oliver Lorenz, Albuquerque Academy (1A-4A singles); Calvin VanDyke/Thaaj Bhardwaj, La Cueva (5A doubles).

GIRLS TENNIS: Vianca Corley, Eldorado (5A singles); Lily Bosch, Albuquerque Academy (1A-4A singles); Cameron King/Stephanie Romero, La Cueva (5A doubles); Emeline Doscher/Michelle Deng, Albuquerque Academy (1A-4A doubles).

BOYS GOLF: Jake Yrene, La Cueva (5A)

GIRLS GOLF: Rylee Salome, Belen (4A)

BOYS TRACK AND FIELD: (CLASS 5A)—Steven West, Sandia (1,600); Cruz Markham, La Cueva (400); La Cueva, 4×100 (Gabriel Buie, Cruz Markham, Colt Mangino, Tanner Montaño); Tanner Montaño, La Cueva (long jump); Reuben Johnson, Cibola (discus); Strat Shufelt, Cleveland (shot put); Nic Trujillo, Cleveland (high jump); Fredrick Ford, Albuquerque High (triple jump); Isaac Medrano, Cleveland (javelin); La Cueva, 4×200 (Tanner Montaño, Cam Dyer, Cruz Markham, Colt Mangino); Cleveland, 1,600 Medley relay (Andres Aguirre, Tyler Griffith, Landon Stewart, Caden Nunn); Cleveland, 4×400 (Nic Trujillo, Elijah Griego, Michael Haynes, Aiden Joyner). (CLASS 4A)—Kidus Tekle, Hope Christian (100 HH, 300 IH); Antonio Muñiz, Moriarty (400); Franklin Rambo, Albuquerque Academy (discus, shot put); Jamal Witter, Albuquerque Academy (long jump); Albuquerque Academy, 4×100 (Kene Onyia, Harper Craig, Carter Speegle, Jamal Witter); Albuquerque Academy, 4×800 (Elliot Hickey, Nate Klein, Quint Stein, Hayden Prescott). (CLASS 3A)—Shane Yara, Cottonwood Classical Prep (1,600). (CLASS 2A)—Garrett Lerch, Menaul (400). (CLASS 1A)—Joshua Marquez, Oak Grove Classical Academy (3,200); Oak Grove Classical Academy, 4×800 relay (Joshua Marquez, William Ryder McElveny, Malakai Goldie, Gordon Lee).

GIRLS TRACK AND FIELD: (CLASS 5A)—Sima Lucero, La Cueva (100 HH, 300IH, 200); Carysa Marquez, Volcano Vista (3,200); Sterling Glenn, Rio Rancho (discus, shot put); La Cueva, 4×400 (Alexis Haddock, Tessa Undegraff, Natalie Pfeiffer, Sima Lucero). (CLASS 3A)—Kate Henderson, Sandia Prep (3,200); Cottonwood Classical Prep, 4×800 relay (Alondra Ortiz, Sophia Lopez, Madison Seidel, Savannah Bingham). (CLASS 2A)—Emery Baker, Menaul (400); Mikayla Sierra, Menaul (300 hurdles). (CLASS 1A)—Cecilia Campos, Chesterton Academy (1,600, 800); Taliyah Martinez, Legacy Academy (100, 200, 400).


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