ARTESIA – It seems Ruidoso’s strategy when running the girls 4×100 relay is simple: keep things close until the final handoff, then give Shalom Keller the baton and watch her burn up the track to win the race.
To be sure, that’s exactly what happened, April 21, at the Artesia Invitational at the Bulldog Bowl, but it was so much more than just Keller’s speed that won the race.
As a team, the Lady Warriors made perfect handoffs, and their overall time of 50.16 seconds was just a 10th of a second off of the school record in the event.
Still, Ruidoso had their best time of the season in the race and got another State qualifying mark.
“All those handoffs were terrific – Morgan (Johnson) to Sara (McMasters), Sara to Bailey (Jones), and then Bailey to Shalom, who made up the difference and won it in the end,” said Ruidoso coach Kief Johnson. “Bailey’s third leg was just tremendous.”
While Keller had to make up some ground to go from third to first at the end, Jones made up some ground of her own, getting the baton in fourth before handing it to Keller in third.
“It has to do with all of us, it starts as soon as you shoot the gun,” Jones said. “We ran our best time today, so that was good.”
Keller was her usual speedy self in the 100-meter dash, flying to a victory with a 12.40 second, State qualifying time, just three-tenths of a second off the state record.
Jones, meanwhile, earned another State berth in the triple jump winning the event with a leap of 33 feet, 11½ inches.
The pit may not have been perfect – Jones slid quite a bit on each of her landings – but she wasn’t about to use the facility’s conditions as an excuse.
“The pit just depends on the day,” Jones said. “Today may not have been my best day, but it was good enough to win.”
Jessi Midkiff was fast enough to qualify for State in the 100- and 200-meter hurdles, winning her heat in the 300 and finishing second overall.
For the boys’ 4×100 team, things didn’t go as smoothly and their girls counterparts. There was a major hiccup on the first exchange – Isaiah Otero had to almost stop to wait for the baton from Powell – but Josh Romero turned in his best split 100 time on the anchor leg.
It wasn’t enough to win their heat, but their time of 45.17 was still just fast enough to get to State.
“These were just kids that haven’t practiced it near enough,” Johnson said of the Warrior relay team.
LaVaughn Smooth took second in the 100- and 200-meter dashes, qualifying for State each time.
Romero also did well enough in the long jump to finish fourth with a leap of 20 feet, seven inches. It was only the second time in his life he had competed in the event, a week after winning it at the Ruidoso Invitational and qualifying for State.
He re-qualified on Friday by an inch, but his jump of 21-plus feet in the finals was negated when his toe was just inches past the board.
“I was just a little short from last week, but I’m proud of what I did here in Artesia,” Romero said. “I thought I had it on that last jump, so we’ll just see what I can do next week.”
In throwing events, Lane Ryen and Tyler McClendon again performed well in the shot put, although they were up against some tough competition in Portales’ Trenton Small, who won the even with a State qualifying throw of 54-10.
Ryen finished fourth, while MeClendon was sixth.
“That kid from Portales is the real deal,” Johnson said “We’ve just got to compete and get ready for district there.”
As a team, the Ruidoso girls were fourth with 54½ points, while the boys took seventh at 23 points.
The Lady Warriors were in better position than District 4-4A foes Moriarty and Portales, while the Ram boys were just 2½ points better than Ruidoso in the final tally.