The Santa Fe High School girls track and field team made a huge splash last season at the state meet, setting five Class 4A records and finishing in second, one point away from a championship.
The Demonettes almost certainly won’t record similar achievements at the state meet that starts today at the University of New Mexico Track and Soccer Complex, but Santa Fe can still boast plenty of firepower for 6A.
“With the group that we have going, we have a legitimate chance of being a top-five team this weekend,” said Demonettes coach Peter Graham. “Depending on how the points play out and depending on how the points are split up by the other teams.”
And one thing for sure is that Santa Fe will have a shot at another one of the oldest records in the books. Long jumper Akeisha Ayanniyi enters the meet with a long of 19 feet 2 inches, just a quarter-inch from the mark that Cassandra White of Hobbs reached in 1984.
“She won last year in 5A,” Graham said. “And if she does what she needs to do and can do, she’ll come away with another state title in the long jump.”
As for nailing a record, Graham declined to speculate, but he did say that Ayanniyi has put in the work to take advantage of her abilities.
“The No. 1 thing is, her jumps coach, Gail Takashita, has done a real good job making sure she’s been consistent on things,” Graham said. “She did some strength work in the offseason. She generates a lot of speed on the runway, which is a big plus, too.”
Add in that Ayanniyi is extremely focused and you have an athlete ready to explode.
“She’s just one of those kids,” Graham said. “She’s driven. She has goals that she’s set and knows what she wants to do and talks with pride in going after those goals.”
One of her top competitors will be teammate Samantha Woodman, who is seeded third in both the 100 and 200.
Woodman was nursing an injury last season so she was only used in the relays, Graham said, which should make her even more driven to succeed in her senior season.
“She’s very hungry to get in the open events and do well,” he said. ‘That’s a little bit of a driving factor for her, too.”
The two speedsters push the rest of the Demonettes to perform at their best, the coach said.
“They’re cornerstones for the group that is going,” Graham said. “They’ve been with the program for four solid years. They’ve been to state three times before. They’re just the core of the group that is going. They’re good hard workers. They lead by example. They’re pretty driven to have some success. Very driven on what they want to get done this weekend.”
St. Michael’s is also hoping to get it done this weekend by bringing home at least one trophy, if not two.
“We’re looking pretty good,” said coach Joey Fernandez. “We seem to be jelling at the right time. As for the team, we’re looking at getting on the podium in at least the top three, but, of course, we’re always aiming for a championship.”
A year ago, the boys were the distant runner-up to Taos and the girls finished fourth.
“At the state meet, of course, everything has to go right to get on the top spot on the podium,” he said. “But that’s our goal going into the weekend.
For the boys, it’s all about the speed. Senior Zack Vigil is the top seed in the 100 and 200, while fellow senior teammate Nathanyel Leyba is not far off the pace, seeded third in both events.
“I think they both have a chance to win,” Fernandez said. “It means a lot to have that speed because we can use them in the relays, too. If we do well in the 4X100 and the 100, it gets our day off to a great start.”
On the girls’ side, the lady Horsemen will be looking to parlay their strength in the field events and their depth in middle-distance runs into overall success.
Jocelyn Fernandez, the coach’s daughter, has excelled in javelin and looks to repeat as state champion, while fellow basketball player Alexandra Groenewold looks to break through in shot put and discus, where she is seeded second and third, respectively.
“The middle-distance races is our strength,” Joey Fernandez said. “That allows us to do a lot in the 4X200, the 4X400 and the medley relay. We should be very competitive in those events.”