Albuquerque Academy for the win, but Colorado for the show
Justin Hickey was the pace car for a well-oiled Albuquerque Academy machine.
Word had reached just about everyone at the meet long before the morning of the races. The two best cross country programs in New Mexico--Albuquerque Academy and Los Alamos were bringing teams to the 2019 Joe Vigil Invitational. That fact alone ensured spectators would be treated to some of the best racing in meet history--perhaps the best competition the race had ever seen.
Still, Colorado was bringing Dakota Ridge. And, the Eagles figured to have their way with the field.
Once the race got going, however, only the most hardened cross country fans tried to keep a pulse on the team scoring. For most, the racing up front was too exciting to think about too much else.
After the column began to spread out a little and until the race hit about one mile, there was a cluster of six forming the lead pack--Alex Baca of Gunnison, Connor Ohlson and Ben Morrin of Dakota Ridge, Dylan Schubert of Thompson Valley, Mason Norman of The Classical Academy, and Luke Tichi of Durango.
In the next mile, the lead pack whittled down to Schubert, Ohlson, and Norman. There was no particular leader, just leadership by committee. Each tried a surge now and then, but the other two weren't going away. The trio went through two miles in about 10:16. The last 1.1 miles was a blazing test of will.
With about 600 meters remaining, Norman opened a small lead. Schubert stayed just off Norman's shoulder but wouldn't go away. For several moments, it appeared Ohlson was fading ever so slightly, but the D Ridge senior had other plans.
With 200 meters to go, it resolved to jail break time. There was no more strategy; it was simply a contest of three guys pounding to the finish as hard as they could.
Ohlson's footspeed proved to be tough to match. Ohlson slipped past both Norman and Schubert, then held off Norman for the win. The times were a breathless 15:23, 15:24, and 15:27. And, yes, this is the revised, full-length course Adams State implemented last year for the high school races.
Now it was time to start thinking about the team races, but the default thought there was that D Ridge had things nicely in hand. Ohlson had taken first, and it wasn't long before Morrin crossed in fifth.
It was a pit portentous, however, that Justin Hickey of Albuquerque Academy crossed in fourth. The Red Army, as they are know in New Mexico, wasn't far behind--and they brought plenty of reinforcements. Julian Garcia was next and AA had closed their scoring by place 25.
Neither D Ridge nor in-state rival Los Alamos could match that. What was stunning, however, was that Los Alamos easily slid by D Ridge for third.
The Eagles got Benjamin Piegat across in 19th, then had to wait until place 40 for runner four to come across. By then, AA and Los Alamos had long since closed out their scoring. The top two places had sneaked across the border to New Mexico.
Behind D Ridge, but not that far behind D Ridge, was Durango. The Demons got hit hard at #5. If they can bolster that position before the season is over, they will be a force to be reckoned with in 4A.
Salida edged The Classical Academy for fifth and for 3A honors at this meet. The Spartans were led by Frank DeCew in 24th at 17:10, but the next four Spartans all crossed in the next 35 seconds. A nice pack pushed Salida past TCA by four points.
Thompson Valley finished in 7th, followed by a very large gap to eighth.
Next Page: One point of difference