Chief track faces up to challenges

By Todd Fuqua

Photo by Todd Fuqua Mescalero’s Katelyn Yuzos, right, takes off after getting the baton from teammate Alyn Kirgan during last year’s Ruidoso Warrior Invitational.

Numbers, numbers, numbers.

Photo by Todd Fuqua Alex Kaydahzinne is one of several cross country runners who will compete at longer distances for the Chief track team this season.

That’s the first thing in mind when it comes to the Mescalero track and field team. They have a lot of talent, just not a lot of athletes.

And one of the biggest things Chief coach David Velasquez has to contend with is the success of his school’s basketball teams this season.

The Chief boys are 14-11 and playing a decent season, while the girls are in the midst of an historic season, looking to go 25-1 in the regular season and unbeaten in District 3-2A play.

When you have teams that good, it usually means they’ll be playing into March and your best athletes will still be busy on the hardwood when other schools have hit the track.

“We certainly want both our basketball teams in the playoffs and want our girls to be in the top four,” Velasquez said. “I want the kids to do well, and if that means we start late with track, that’s fine.”

Among those Velasquez will be counting on for this spring are seniors Katelyn Yuzos and Matias LaPaz, both javelin throwers and quarter milers.

Both were in the finals at State in javelin two years ago, but couldn’t make it last season.

LaPaz couldn’t throw at all due to a foot injury, and Velasquez is hoping it’s healed enough for him to make a run at a title this season.

In distance running, cross country runner Alex Kaydahzinne will again carry the Chiefs’ hopes, while the four freshmen – George Rocha, Ethan Gallerito, Dominic Chee and Kendrick Ortega – will be forming up with junior Aloysius Comanche to put together some formidable relay teams.

The basketball team is fast, and Velasquez expects that to carry over.

“It’s not a bad group to have,” Velasquez said. “But we’re in a pretty salty district with Lordsburg, Cloudcroft and Cliff. Very tough.”

Joining Yuzos on the girls will be junior Yvonne Douglass in triple jump, quarter mile and relays, sophomore Fallon Velasquez in javelin and relays and – hopefully – junior Justice Blake as a sprinter.

Coach Velasquez also pointed to sophomore Alyn Kazhe-Kirgan, freshman Marika Starr, and Joy Valdez and William Old Chief from the cross country team to aid in the distance running.

If everyone comes out as Velasquez hopes, earning team titles this season isn’t completely unthinkable, but Cloudcroft’s girls are the defending Class 1A State champion, which puts into perspective what the Chiefs are up against.

“Our program is a work in progress, and now we’re starting to figure out it’s not easy to go and the kids have to work hard,” Velasquez said. “Getting kids to stay in track is a big chore. We brought everyone back, though, so we should be better than last year.”

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