Niles Thomas, consider yourself on notice.
Miyamura’s breakout cross-country runner thoroughly dominated the 2014 landscape, sweeping all the major events on the schedule, up to and including the Class 5A state meet. No runner in any class came close to approaching Thomas’ winning time that day.
His season began with a win at the University of New Mexico Invitational – the same meet that Saturday will open the 2015 prep season, and again featuring one of the strongest fields of the year.
Enter Albuquerque Academy’s Jordan Lesansee, who perhaps isn’t putting Thomas on notice himself but sort of via proxy.
“He’s starting to take it to a new level, and he really is just starting to get there,” marveled Academy coach Adam Kedge. “Not all of this has registered with him yet.”
What Thomas was on the courses last fall, Lesansee was, more or less, on the track last spring, almost always running ahead of any pack.
The two running giants met up at state and split the two distance race, with Thomas taking the 1,600 and Lesansee the 3,200.
The track season was such a success that Lesansee, 16, craved more stability and prosperity in cross-country, where he placed eighth last season at state, a full 70 seconds behind Thomas.
The spring was also, indirectly, a personal edict of sorts to challenge Thomas – and, locally, Rio Rancho’s Devin Paredes, who edged Lesansee at last year’s metro meet.
“I like to think we’re neck and neck right now,” Lesansee said of he and Thomas. “I feel like this summer, I’ve put in a lot of work, and I’m very confident going into the season.”
He said he developed a more regulated weekly regimen, running 60 miles a week as opposed to various weekly distances, both smaller and greater, the previous year.
“I’ve definitely seen the benefits,” he said. “I feel stronger and faster.”
His teammate and best friend, Aric Kedge, has noticed, especially because other Academy runners can hardly keep up with his pace, anymore.
“He’s just on a different level,” Aric said. “When we’re on runs during track season, we can hang with him. Now he’s just looking stronger and fitter and more confident.”
Lesansee hails from a family of runners.
His father, Eldred, is from Zuni Pueblo. His mother, Darlene, is from Jemez Pueblo. And his uncle, Anthony Armijo, was also a huge influence in his running.
But Lesansee is a city boy, born in Albuquerque, and said he never thought about representing a school on any pueblo. His roots, however, remain strong as he visits family at one pueblo or the other nearly every weekend, his coach said.
Jordan is the youngest of five brothers, all of whom have run for the Chargers.
“My parents wanted my brothers and I to receive the best education,” Lesansee said. “Something they couldn’t get growing up. They value the need for education, and they wanted us to have more opportunities than we would on the reservation.”
He’s been attending Academy since the sixth grade. He toiled with football; even suffered a concussion. That didn’t last long. He also played basketball. Running, he said, used to be his tool for conditioning for basketball, and his competitive juices were flowing since he grew up with four brothers.
He eventually gave up hoops, too.
Running, he said, was never forced on him, or his brothers, despite the backgrounds of their parents. He didn’t take running all that seriously until the fall of his seventh-grade year, after a solid spring on the track.
Although he initially believed running was “boring,” Lesansee realized he had a talent. He placed in the top four in both the 1,600 and 3,200 as a freshman, but in cross-country the previous fall, he finished a distant 24th at state.
That seems so long ago.
“If he is aware (of how much he’s improved),” Aric Kedge said, “he’s so humble, he looks like he doesn’t know.”
Certainly Lesansee plans to push Thomas hard during the next two months, starting on Saturday.
“I think this year will be different,” Lesansee said. “This is a very important race. It sets the tone for the season.”
While on the surface it sounds inconceivable that Lesansee lacks any college offers, Adam Kedge quickly supplied the context as he talked about two national, year-end meets – one run by Nike, the other by Foot Locker.
“Until he makes one of those,” Kedge said, “he won’t be heavily recruited. He’ll just be another state champion.”
RACE NOTES: Ironically, despite the title, the UNM Invite won’t have a college race this year. UNM officials said there was a “conflict” with collegiate opponents, so Saturday’s meet is down to a community race and the high schools.
The boys varsity begins at 8:45 a.m., followed by the girls at 9:30. Natasha Bernal of La Cueva, now a Lobo, won this prep race last September.
The Lobos will run at the Texas Tech Double Duals today in Ruidoso, as will New Mexico State and UTEP, which had both previously planned to run in Albuquerque on Saturday.
Runners to watch
Some metro-area cross-country runners to watch this season:
Devin Paredes, jr., Rio Rancho: The Class 6A state runner-up last year.
Jordan Lesansee, jr., Albuquerque Academy: Already dominant in track, wanting to expand his horizons.
Michael Goke, sr., Rio Rancho: Was 11th last year at state for the Rams.
Alex Heffelfinger, sr., East Mountain: Last year’s 4A state champion.
Jericho Cleveland, soph., Volcano Vista: Could be a factor in Class 6A.
Connor Laktasic, jr., Eldorado: Like Cleveland, under the radar in 6A; All-State last year.
Peter Siminski, sr., Hope Christian: All-State potential in 4A.
Steven Duran, sr., St. Pius: One of metro’s most versatile runners.
Amanda Mayoral, soph., Cleveland: Placed second to Natasha Bernal at state.
Molly Klein, jr., Rio Rancho: An all-around track/cross-country talent.
Mason Swanson, sr., La Cueva: Finished third at state last year.
Andi Almodovar, soph., Rio Rancho: Had a seventh-place showing at state in 2014.
Arena Lewis, sr., Belen: State championship potential for sure in 5A.
Toni-Marie Gonzales, sr., Volcano Vista: Very solid runner for the Hawks.
Reina Paredes, fresh., Rio Rancho: The Rams’ top runner at state last fall.
Jordyn DiLorenzo, jr., St. Pius: Class 5A state runner-up last season.