ALBUQUERQUE – Track fans at University of New Mexico that were in attendance at this year’s Class 4A State meet, May 12-13, got a sneak preview of what the Lady Lobo squad could look like next season.
That’s because Ruidoso senior Shalom Keller was also in attendance.
Keller – who will be attending UNM in the fall on a full scholarship – wowed the crowd with her speed, winning gold in the 100, 200 and 400-meter runs, and earning a gold as the anchor leg of the 4×100 relay team.
Even better, in the 400-meter preliminaries on Friday, Keller set a new State record with a time of 55.59 seconds and was the high-point individual.
“I was trying to set the state record for the 1, 2 and 4, all across the boards, for all divisions,” Keller said. “I was trying to get the 100 record, at least in my division, but couldn’t do it. I was a little upset about that, but there will be more races to come.”
“She is not only a talented young lady, she’s an exceptional human being and a great kid,” said Ruidoso co-coach Sam Lee. “There’s some bright things ahead of her.”
Of course, there were other Ruidoso athletes there, and they all contributed to the Lady Warriors’ 60 points, just a point better than Taos and good enough for a third-place trophy.
“All ten girls, I’m proud of all of them. This is a team effort,” Lee said.
Keller’s win in the 100-meters was augmented by junior Morgan Johnson, who was about a half second back of Keller in second place.
“I thought I had third or fourth, just because the girl from Silver (Denali Burke) had been second all throughout the year,” Johnson said. “But she didn’t even get on the podium today.”
Johnson was also fourth in the 400 and second overall in long jump with a leap of 16 feet, 9½ inches on her first attempt.
It was by far her personal best.
“I beat the third-place girls by half a foot,” said Johnson, referring to Moriarty’s Vanessa Forrest. “I was really excited. I was jumping about 16-7, 16-5. I was consistent, but not jumping anything like this. I was trying to get 17 at least.”
Another Lady Warrior doing her best, and setting a school record, was Bailey Jones in the triple jump.
Her best distance of 35-10¼ was only good enough for fourth place, but coach Lee said his pride over her performance knew no bounds.
“That was her personal best, and you can’t be anything but proud,” Lee said.
Jones was also a member of that 4×100 championship team, along with Johnson and Sara McMaster.
McMaster, Jones, Keller and Sydney Annala – who finished fourth in discus on Friday – were the only seniors on this squad.
“All of us wake up with hopes of it being a perfect day, and sometimes it isn’t quite that way. That’s athletics,” Lee said of Annala’s performance. “Good athletes respond to that and work harder. That’s what Sydney’s done her whole career, that’s what we try to teach.
“It will also be hard to fill Sara’s shoes,” he added. “She’s been with this program for several years and has matured as an athlete and human being. She’ll be missed.”
Ruidoso’s boys weren’t in the running for a trophy, but they did score 36 points with just nine athletes in attendance.
That included performances by LaVaughn Smooth, who almost caught up to Silver’s Joe Hansen at the very end in the 4×100, but was .06 seconds off the pace. Smooth was also second in the 100-meter final to Taos’ Jonah Vigil in a finish so close the timing had to be taken to the nearest thousandth of a second to determine the winner.
“I thought I had both those races, but this competition, you have to work hard,” Smooth said after the 100-meters. “It’s all the mindset. This is State, and you have to do your best, this is all out.”
Smooth finally got the gold he was seeking in the 200-meter final, this time cruising to victory with a 22.55-second time, a full .15 seconds faster than Vigil in second.
Like Keller’s 200 race, Smooth was running into a headwind in the home stretch, but he wasn’t about to let that affect him.
“I didn’t care about that, I just kept going,” Smooth said. “I worked my butt off and ran my fastest.”
Also adding points for the Warriors were throwers Tyler McClendon and Lane Ryen, who finished third and fourth overall.
Ryen was also second in discus with a top throw of 130-7 on the first day of the meet.
“Tyler and Ryen have been battling it out all year long, I’m proud of both of them,” said co-coach Kief Johnson. “They both said they wished they’d been throwing shot since they were freshmen, and I had been telling them that. But they competed today and did a great job.”
That Ruidoso was able to score as many points as it did with just nine boys on the roster was something that made coach Johnson very happy.
“I’m really pleased. These nine boys all competed and did their very best,” Johnson said. “I can’t be more proud over how well they performed up here.”