St. Michael’s runs away with team title

May 12, 2019

ALBUQUERQUE — For all that Joe Fernandez has accomplished in his head-coaching career, the one thing missing from his résumé was a boys state track and field title.

In fact, that particular trophy was lacking in the halls of the venerated high school.

Behind a group of athletes, many of whom suffered through a year of unmet expectations in other sports, the Horsemen checked off that item on “Championship Saturday.”

St. Michael’s rolled to the state title with an 82-point total, easily besting runner-up Dexter (44 points) and fellow District 2-3A foe Santa Fe Prep (43) for the 3A title at Great Friends of UNM Track Complex.

And how did St. Michael’s celebrate the occasion? By recording the 19th state record of the small-school meet in the 1,600-meter relay — the final event of the day — with a time of 3 minutes, 26.95 seconds.

The Horsemen weren’t the only Northern school to revel in the spoils of state record glory.

Deven Thompson broke the shot-put mark, while Andres Blea of Escalante set a record in the 300 hurdles.

But it was a day that belonged to the boys in blue and white, who turned a year of pain into a lasting moment of glory.

Horsemen Haven

It was supposed to happen in football, until Las Vegas Robertson rallied for two touchdowns in the final 4 minutes to beat the Horsemen in the 3A quarterfinals. Then, it was supposed to happen in basketball, but the Braves of Santa Fe Indian School thwarted those dreams in the 3A semifinals.

With one last chance to bring home a blue trophy, St. Michael’s left no doubt about the outcome over the two-day meet. The day started off strong, as the 400 relay team won in 44.10 seconds, edging four teams that were within 0.13 of each other. The Horsemen won all four relays (400, 800, medley, 1,600) for a 40-point base that was impossible for the rest of 3A to overcome.

“I just thought they came together, and they weren’t going to lose,” Fernandez said. “They put a great track meet together.”

Add to that the individual wins from seniors Hayden Lee (400) and Dominic Morgan (javelin) to go with Derek McQuiston’s high-jump title Friday, and the path to a title was relatively easy. It also made the previous eight months worth the struggle.

“This just puts a great end to my senior year and this group of seniors in general,” Morgan said. “It’s amazing to come out here and get a state championship — the first one in [St. Michael’s] boys history. This was just a really good end.”

Thompson, Blea reign supreme

It might be Class 1A’s best, but Thompson’s distance of 49 feet,

61/2 inches on his second throw of the preliminaries that set the state record wasn’t even his personal best.

It wasn’t even his best throw at the complex.

That happened April 22 at the Marilyn Sepulveda Meet of Champions when Thompson recorded a 51-4 that placed him second to Albuquerque Academy’s Teagun Glenn by 1 inch. Thompson said his place in the record books is only temporary, acknowledging that the next record holder is only a throw away.

“When I feel confident, I feel [I can do] even better than that,” he said. “I am sure, eventually, somebody will do that and beat my own personal record.”

As a senior about to graduate, Thompson said will be playing basketball next year at Northern New Mexico College.

Meanwhile, Blea, who came into the state meet with the second-best time in the 300 hurdles in 2A, benefited from the absence of his chief rival, Santa Rosa’s Stephen Sanchez, after he failed to qualify in the preliminaries due to a knee injury he suffered during the pole vault event.

Not that it made things any easier, as Blea battled Eunice’s Avante Stevens and Estancia’s Brian Walker to win the race in a personal best 40.32.

White Eagle carries ATC to third place

Academy for Technology and the Classic played a hot hand it knew it had — senior Ahbedoh White Eagle. He came through time and time again, anchoring the Phoenix’s 400 relay team to a first in the 2A race, the 800 relay to a second and also winning the 100 and 200.

The 18.5 points he accumulated helped ATC to a third-place finish with 46 points.

The 1,600 relay team finished second to push ATC past Hagerman for the green trophy. It bookend the first two boys trophies for the Phoenix as the cross-country team in the fall took home a third-place trophy.

The first 90 minutes of the finals were the busiest for White Eagle, though, as he ran the two relays and won the 100.

“The mental capability of doing that is the most challenging,” White Eagle said.

“I’ve had to do that before. My sophomore year, I ran the 4-by-[100] and out of the blue, we got on the podium, and it was crazy.

“But then, I was like, ‘I got to run this hundred.’ If I’m not in the right mental state, it won’t go well.”

Sparks ignites to win two titles

Santa Fe Prep senior Sam Sparks needed to find the right mental state in the morning, as he languished in fifth place heading into the finals of the triple jump.

Sparks was so frustrated that he hit the reset button by putting on his headphones and walking away from the jump pit for a few minutes.

Experience told him to do that.

“At districts, I did this thing where I went to the bathroom and got my mind away from it,” Sparks said. “I just kept my distance from the pit and everybody. I did that today, and it was kinda nice to calm my thoughts.”

It worked, as he came back and landed a 42-101/4 jump on his second attempt, a half-inch better than Dexter’s Gustavo Macias.

It started a strong day in which Sparks anchored the 400 relay team to a second place finish and won the 200 in 22.49, coming just two-tenths of a second away from setting a state record. Those points led Prep to a third-place finish.

Dons’ Paiz gets race inspiration, claims 800 title

Isaiah Paiz spent much of his athletic career at West Las Vegas as the supporting cast on successful cross-country teams.

If he needed any more motivation going into the 3A 800 race, it came in the surprise visit from 2018 graduate Miguel Coca, who won all three distance races at the 4A meet last year. He traveled 15 hours from Iowa to see Paiz.

“I had to watch his last race and wanted to watch him go out with a bang,” Coca said.

Paiz did just that, as he stayed close to the pack that reeled in St. Michael’s junior Justin Angel around the turn, then outraced another Horsemen, top seed Justice Johnson, to win the race in 1:58.84 — 0.02 faster than Johnson.

“Just having [Coca] here was inspiration for the race,” Paiz said. “I always wanted to be like him and race like him.”