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North Sports Stories of the Year

There is no better time than the start of the new year to reflect back on the old. As always, the locals distinguished themselves on the sporting fields, courts and pitches.

Here is a brief look at what Journal North considers the top five sports stories of the year that was.

5. Santa Fe Fuego win the Pecos Baseball League championship two games to one over Alpine, Texas, in August. Recovering from a 13-inning loss in the opener of the championship series, el Fuego powered their way to 6-1 and 7-3 wins to clinch the series.

Catcher Eric Kozel, who won the league’s MVP after hitting .407 with nine homers and 53 RBI, went 4-for-6 in the clincher with a home run.

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Fuego shortstop Craig Massey led the league in hitting with an almost-silly .465 average with 80 RBI.

4. New Mexico Highlands University’s Salcia Slack was one of the country’s stand-out performers at the NCAA Division II outdoor track and field championships in May. She nearly earned a national record in winning the heptathlon with 5,714 points, obliterating the field and just 76 points shy of the national mark. She also won the long jump with a leap of 20 feet, 9 inches. For good measure, Slack, a junior, finished with a bronze medal in the triple jump by sailing 42 feet, 9 inches. Her exploits helped the Cowgirls to a seventh-place overall finish.

3. Santa Fe High School’s Tiffany Garcia set three Class 4A individual state records at the state track and field meet in May, and helped her Demonettes teammates break their own 2013 record in the 4 x 200-meter relay. Meanwhile, the Taos Tigers swept both the boys and girls 3A track and field championships.

Garcia’s performance, especially in the 200 meters, was so dominating that she beat the previous record by nearly a second, which in a sprint is a remarkable achievement.

The Tigers’ Isaac Gonzales won the long jump, triple jump and the 200 meters, and also ran anchor on the state-winning 4 x 40 relay team to help Taos cruise to a 95-69 win over runner-up St. Michael’s.

The Taos girls won the 100- and 200-meter dashes behind the quartet of Amanda Mondragon, Miranda Vigil, Brianna Vigil and Angelica Pacheco en route to a close 71-67 victory over Sandia Prep and back-to-back titles.

2. The Albuquerque metro area usually dominates the high school soccer scene, but Santa Fe turned that notion on its ears when the Capital and Santa Fe Prep boys teams carried home blue titles from the state tournament in November.

The Jaguars rallied from a late 1-0 deficit on an improbable equalizer from Kevin Martinez with three minutes left in the final against heavy favorite Albuquerque Academy. And early in the second overtime, Capital delivered a beautiful game-winner from Guillermo Navarette to Jesús Garcia to Alexis Romo for the win and the Jaguars’ first-ever state championship in the sport.

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The Blue Griffins also needed overtime – four of them to be exact – before denying Sandia Prep a fifth consecutive small schools state championship.

Santa Fe High coach Elmer Chavez, left, celebrates with player Jackie Martinez after the Demonettes beat Los Lunas to capture the girls 4A basketball championship last season. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Santa Fe High coach Elmer Chavez, left, celebrates with player Jackie Martinez after the Demonettes beat Los Lunas to capture the girls 4A basketball championship last season. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Griffin Sides put away a deflected shot in the game’s 113th minute to give Santa Fe Prep its first championship since 1982.

1. Santa Fe High School girls team wins the Class 4A state basketball championship in March.

It wasn’t pretty, but behind a gritty defensive performance, the Demonettes won their first girls hoops title since 1988 with a 34-29 win over defending champion Los Lunas. Santa Fe’s Jackie Martinez led all scorers with 15 points and also grabbed seven rebounds, helping the Demonettes recover from an 18-9 halftime deficit.

“Our defense was tremendous all night,” coach Elmer Chavez told the Journal after the game. “The best defense overcame the best offense.”

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