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Rams race to Metro team titles

It was nearly a sweep for Rio Rancho High School on Saturday morning at the Albuquerque Metro Cross-Country Championships.

The Rams collected both team trophies, and sophomore Devin Paredes won a thrilling individual race, joining La Cueva’s Natasha Bernal as meet champions at Albuquerque Academy.

BOYS: The gap between Paredes and Academy’s Jordan Lesansee at the finish line? The general consensus was no more than six inches. It was that close. Like photo-finish close.

The margin was 23 hundredths of a second.

“I gave it everything I had,” Paredes said. “That’s probably the fastest I’ve ever run. I did everything I could to hold him off.”

Paredes’ winning time was 15 minutes, 44.43 seconds. Lesansee finished in 15:44.66.

Paredes led most of the race, although Lesansee surged in front with about a half mile to go.

Over the final couple of hundred meters, it was simply a matter of who’d have the stronger kick.

“The key was Devin believing that he can be a frontrunner on a weekly basis,” Rio Rancho coach Sal Gonzales said of Paredes’ development, citing a recent victory at Cleveland’s meet as the impetus for this win.

The Paredes/Lesansee conclusion was about as exciting a finish as this event has produced.

“I did my best today,” a disappointed Lesansee said. “Devin was the better guy today.”

The theme was the same in the team standings.

Rio Rancho, last year’s Class 5A state champion, won a tight battle with the host Chargers.

The Rams had three runners in the top 11 – Michael Goke was sixth, Josh Pyeatt 11th – and scored 59 points. Academy was three points behind. Cibola (96) was third.

Volcano Vista’s Jericho Cleveland was the third-place individual, crossing almost a full 20 seconds after Paredes and Lesansee.

The top 10 individuals were accorded All-Metro honors.

GIRLS: Bernal continued to just rampage through some of the best fields the state can assemble.

Rio Rancho's Molly Klein, left, keeps pace with La Cueva's Nataha Bernal, while the Rams' Andi Almodovar follows closely on Saturday. (Jim Thompson/Journal)

Rio Rancho’s Molly Klein, left, keeps pace with La Cueva’s Nataha Bernal, while the Rams’ Andi Almodovar follows closely on Saturday. (Jim Thompson/Journal)

She took down the University of New Mexico Invite to start the season, then beat a deep field at Academy’s meet two weeks ago.

She won comfortably on Saturday, finishing in 18:07.83. Rio Rancho’s Molly Klein came home a little more than 22 seconds later.

Klein and teammate Andi Almodovar were largely responsible for pushing the early pace, Bernal said.

“The start was really fast,” Bernal said. “And I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to keep pace. I just wanted to stay with them.”

Bernal eventually eased into the front, where she has proven to be unbeatable.

“I always try to stay comfortable until I can set the pace for myself,” she said. “And then I just go.”

Esther Beck of Eldorado placed third individually.

Rio Rancho’s girls surprised even their coach with their performance. The Rams’ 64 points gave them a cozy 26-point margin over La Cueva. Eldorado was a close third (93).

Said Gonzales: “Our girls ran better than we thought they would.”

Almodovar (sixth) and Reina Paredes (10th) joined teammate Klein in the top 10.

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