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State track starts today

By Todd Fuqua

A small army of Lincoln County-area athletes – 52 to be precise – has made the trip north when they represent their schools at this year’s Class 1A-3A State track and field meet at UNM in Albuquerque.

Hailing from Capitan in 3A, Mescalero in 2A and Carrizozo, Corona and Hondo in 1A, these students get to competition bright and early today, with field events commencing at 8 a.m.

Capitan and Hondo are the teams with the most going north – 18 each.

Hondo got that number by virtue of winning both the District 3-1A boys and girls titles – a repeat each time.

Hondo co-coach Tim Harris said he’s particularly excited about this year’s senior class.

“I’m really happy for the seniors,” Harris said. “They’ve led by example all year long, they train hard. For them to teach the younger kids, I’m really excited.”

Joyce Ann Cooper

Highlighting the Hondo effort is junior Joyce Ann Cooper, making her fourth straight appearance at the state meet since attending her eighth grade year.

As in years past, she’ll be running the 800- and 1,600-meter runs, but this year she’ll also be competing in high jump, as well as appearances in various relays.

On the boys’ side, Antonio Vazquez hopes to bring in some points in the 3,200 and 1,600-meter runs, and is qualified in several events along with fellow senior Simon Gonzalez.

Simon Gonzalez

“I expect both of those boys to do a lot of good this weekend,” Harris said.

Capitan may have a lot of kids going to Albuquerque, but they’re all young.

Boys coach Becky Huey doesn’t expect a lot of points, except for a few individual events.

“We have 11 freshmen on this team, and they just have a lot of inexperience,” Huey said. “When boys mature, they get faster. I’m looking forward to the next few years.”

Adrianna Romero

One event where the Lady Tigers are likely to shine are in the girls high jump, where Adrianna Romero is among five girls that have leapt five feet or higher this year, and only one of them – Texico’s Jasmine Gannon – isn’t from Capitan’s district.

Also looking to make an impact is Dakota Hazen, who’s height of nine feet in pole vault is the second-highest this season, just behind Eunice’s Dominique Gonzales.

Dakota Hazen

Hazen could also do well in the 100-meter hurdles, with the preliminaries running at noon today.

On the boys’ side, Tanner Lowrance and Jacob Smith are hoping to speed to medals in the 110-meter hurdles and 100-meter dash, respectively, although Smith didn’t run in last week’s District 4-3A meet at all due to a sprained ankle.

Huey is hoping he’s at full strength this week.

“He didn’t run at the district meet, and without his points, I thought the boys did very well to come in second. That shows the entire team pulled their weight, so I was real proud of everybody.”

Carrizozo doesn’t have a whole lot of athletes going, but one in particular will be seeking to further cement her name in history on Saturday morning.

Hannah Ventura

Hannah Ventura is already the State record holder in 1A shot put, having thrown 32 feet, 3¼ inches and winning the title last season.

Now back for her senior year, she’s already thrown well over 33 feet this year and is looking to repeat. Shot put for 1A girls starts at 8 a.m. Saturday.

As for the rest of the team, they’re young, but have already faced off against stiff competition this season thanks to their schedule, including the District 2-1A meet in Reserve and the Ruidoso Warrior Invitational.

“They faced off against some really good athletes there (at Ruidoso),” Pierson said. “So when we went to district, they weren’t intimidated, and I’m hoping that’s what happens at State.”

Corona has an even smaller contingent – Aubrey and Koelle Brandenberger, Conner and Cable Cox, and Luke Lueras.

Aubrey Brandenberger is looking to finish her senior year in style with medals in the 100- and 300-meter hurdles.

Aubrey Brandenberger

“(Aubrey’s) time looks really strong in the 300. That’s the event she really prefers,” said coach Trish Cox. “But it would be great if she could make it to the podium in the 100 as well.”

Freshman Koelle only ran in the 800-meters at the District 3-1A meet in Jal, but had a terrific performance, running against Cooper of Hondo.

“She pushed herself a lot harder,” Cox said of Koelle’s performance. “Cooper really gave her a run for her money and made her get a better time than she’s had all season.”

Mescalero’s only representative is senior Lauryn Yuzos, who sits in the middle of the pack in 2A javelin with a top throw this season of 102-9.

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