Our third in the series of NXR-SW previews takes us to New Mexico to discuss the boys teams from the Land of Enchantment.
2014 New Mexico Boys State Champion: Los Alamosa (5A Champion, 16:47 team average)
2014 New Mexico Boys State Runner-Up: Rio Rancho (6A Champion, 16:51 team average)
New Mexico Representation at NXR-SW 2014: Albuquerque Academy (14th), Los Alamos (23rd), Rio Rancho (26th)
For years, almost out of memory, Albuquerque Academy and Los Alamos have been the cream of the New Mexico crop. And, it counts as less-than-totally-surprising that Rio Rancho joined them at the top of New Mexico last fall. The Rams have a young team, enrollment numbers, and a very capable coach in Sal Gonzales.
Los Alamos got rolled a little by graduation last spring, but always be slow to count the Hilltoppers out. Coaches Rob and Kathy Hipwood have a way of having their team ready for the postseason, even when the consensus of opinion says they won't be able to pull it out. John Rees, Connor Bailey, Victor Kim, and Hayden Walker look to spearhead this fall's lineup. At this point, we don't see a standout individual of the order Los Alamos has boasted in years past, but the team is still deep and solid.
Los Alamos will be chasing Rio Rancho and Albuquerque Academy, both teams who were a little on the side of young last fall and could be a whole lot better (if that's possible) this fall with an added year of experience and maturity.
Rio Rancho returns six sub-17s from last last. Devin Paredes stands out as the leader of the pack, but guys like Michael Goke, Trevor Amestoy, Noad Dodd, David Ogden, and Zachary Allen provide the depth that makes this team dangerous wherever they go. Last fall didn't end as well as it might have for Rio Rancho, so there's a great opportunity to write a different ending script to the story this fall.
In the lore of New Mexico high school cross country, no team looms larger than Albuquerque Academy. The Chargers are back at it again this fall. The story of the last few seasons at AA has been late season struggles. Several of the guys on this year's team have been part of that story for the last two years and should be determined to end differently this year. Certainly, the talent is there to make a big-time run. Jordan Lesansee leads at the front of the pack, but the Chargers are absolutely loaded with sub-17 types. Expect to see big things from Cody Bratzler, Aric and AJ Kedge, Will Stanopiewicz, Mason Clugston, and Mark Harrington. I don't make any pretense of knowing who the scoring five will end up being this fall, but it's safe to say they'll be very good.
Rio Rancho and Albuquerque Academy figure to see a lot of each other this fall. Here's hoping they don't have each other beaten to a pulp before the postseason festivities roll around.
Team-wise, the rest of New Mexico is a considerable step back from the big three coming into the season. Hobbs is a potent team, but also one that has never made the trip to Arizona for NXR-SW. That just doesn't seem to be part of the game plan for Hobbs. Pecos could be an intriguing small-school entry, but doesn't figure to be able to chase down the big three.
Teams close enough to make a big step into the big time this fall include La Cueva, Volcano Vista, and Miyamura.
Individually, Niles Thomas of Miyamura is the biggest one to keep an eye on aside from those already mentioned in this article.