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Valley Track Coach Jaramillo Dies at Age 42

By James Yodice
Journal Staff Writer
    New Mexico's track and field community lost one of its most visible ambassadors Tuesday when longtime Valley High School boys coach Chris Jaramillo died of an apparent massive heart attack at his West Side home.
    Jaramillo was 42.
    "This is a heartbreaker," said Sandia cross country coach and former boys track coach Blaine Clarke. "Of all the guys in this city who really cared about kids, their school and their parents, he was at the top of the list. He had nothing but a heart of gold."
    Valley girls track coach Lawrence Apodaca, who is godfather to Jaramillo's youngest daughter, said Jaramillo had not been feeling well the last couple of days and began coughing heavily around 7:30 Tuesday morning.
    A large man who suffered from sleep apnea and used a machine to help him sleep, he asked his wife, Luz, to call 911, said Jaramillo's brother Richard. Jaramillo then fell unconscious on his bed. When paramedics arrived, they tried to revive Jaramillo but he was pronounced dead sometime between 7:30 and 8 a.m., Richard Jaramillo said.
    "He sacrificed a lot for his teams," his brother said in an afternoon interview at Valley, where many of the school's track and cross country athletes gathered for an emotional, tear-filled meeting. "He gave everything he had for them, and he loved his kids."
    Richard Jaramillo said a massive heart attack was what probably killed his older brother. An autopsy was planned to pinpoint the exact cause, Apodaca said.
    Jaramillo's death rocked the city's small but tight-knit track and field fraternity.
    "I'm totally saddened by the loss of what I consider a very close friend," said Albuquerque Academy track and cross country coach Adam Kedge. "He really was a pillar of the community in the Valley. It's a huge loss."
    Jaramillo had just started his 17th season as Valley's boys track coach, and last fall completed his 15th year as the boys and girls cross country coach. He was Bernalillo's head football coach in 1986 and 1987.
    On Tuesday, peers and students hailed Jaramillo as both a passionate coach and compassionate man who will be sorely missed.
    "He always wanted us to be the best we could be, on and off the track," said senior runner Braeton Smith, who attended Tuesday's meeting at the school. "He really loved what he did, and there was something about him that made us love what we did."
    Jaramillo was hands-on in nearly every facet of local track and cross country.
    He was a past president and an active member of the New Mexico Track and Cross Country Coaches Association. Every January, Jaramillo directed a popular track and field/cross country clinic in Albuquerque which attracted scores of coaches from across the state.
    Many times, Jaramillo coached the New Mexico team entry in the Great Southwest Track & Field Classic competition, held a couple of weeks after May's state meet.
    "He was a father figure to us," said senior runner Daniel Hutchinson. "He was always there when you needed him."
    Kedge, the current president of the coaches' association, said Jaramillo excelled at every kind of teaching, whether it was cross country, running events or field events.
    "He had a passion for the sport, was enthusiastic about it, was incredibly dedicated to it," Kedge said. "He had contacts all over the nation. He was so enthused about promoting track and field and helping the community he so loved."
    Jaramillo also was a jovial man beloved by fellow coaches for his easygoing personality.
    "Funloving, delightful," said Kedge. "Always quick to make a joke, whether it was ribbing a friend or ribbing himself. He was easy to get a smile out of."
    Said a devastated Apodaca, "He was a big-hearted man, and he cared about the sport big time."
    Jaramillo, who taught special education at Valley, leaves behind his wife, Luz, and daughters Annaluz, 12, and Marisol, 6. Funeral arrangements were pending Tuesday afternoon.