Aztec, Bloomfield seniors top qualifiers in state half-mile race

Matthew Smith, Clayton White will face off Saturday

Hannah Grover
Farmington Daily Times
Aztec's Matthew Smith pushes ahead during the last stretch to win the boys 1,600-meter run at the Bill Slade Invitational on April 13 at Kirtland Central. Smith and Bloomfield's Clayton White have the two fastest times in the 800-meter run entering this year's 5A State Track and Field Championships.
  • Matthew Smith and Clayton "CJ" White hold their schools' records in the 800 meters.
  • Both athletes also run the medley relay for their school.
  • The state meet opens Friday and concludes Saturday in Albuquerque.

BLOOMFIELD — The fastest qualifying times for the state’s 5A boys 800-meter race have been run by two seniors at Aztec and Bloomfield. Less than a second separated Aztec’s Matthew Smith and Bloomfield’s Clayton “CJ” White during the District 1-5A meet.

A fast first lap helped each runner break his personal record and their school record. Smith’s 400-meter split was 56 seconds.

Smith won the race with a time of 1:57.25. White was right on his heels with a time of 1:57.82.

"I surprised myself," White said. "I was really happy."

Smith said he was also surprised by White's time in the district race.

 “It’s going to be an interesting race,” Smith said about the upcoming state competition.

Smith anticipates White and Julian Garcia from Albuquerque Academy will be his main competition in the state race. Garcia has a qualifying time of 1:57.9.

White also considers Smith his main competition, and both runners hope to run faster than they did at district.

"I'm going to sit with Matthew for the whole race and just going to battle it out in the end," he said.

State track starts with field events at 8 a.m. Friday at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. The 5A boys 800-meter race will start at 12:46 p.m. Saturday. A full schedule of events can be found at nmact.org. Live results also will be available online.

Clayton "CJ" White will be competing in the state 5A 800-meter race

White achieves his goals

Bloomfield coach Robert Griego said after White failed to qualify for state last year, the senior-to-be invested extra time in off-season practice.

White and his coaches later set goals for this season, one of which was for him to break the school record in the 800.

"It was eventually going to come, and I had a really good feeling it was going to happen at the district meet because, you know, our district is really strong with middle-distance runners," Griego said.

The school record — 1:59.98 — was held by 2015 graduate Ilan Serrano.

Griego said five District 1-5A runners have qualified for state in the 800-meter race.

"You don't see that that often, so he had enough people to run with that were going to push him," Griego said.

Aztec coach Steve Lanier said three of those five middle-distance runners — including Smith — are Tigers, as Aztec's Adam Jones and Ruben Teasyatwho also will be racing in the 15-person field. Their qualifying times are 1:59.77 and 2:00.31, respectively.

Jacob Hawkins, a Kirtland Central High School junior, also qualified, running a time of 2:00.72 during the Aztec Top Gun meet on March 29.

Coaches describe Smith, White as leaders

Griego said White is an inspiration to younger members of the team who see him working hard and having success.

"We base the workouts off of him," Griego said. "If you stay with him, you're going to do pretty good."

Lanier said Smith is team oriented and a leader for both the girls and the boys teams.

“He’s going down there to run the best he can for his team,” he said.

He described Smith as a positive, outstanding young man.

“We’re really proud of him,” Lanier said. “He’s (broken) his own school record twice now.”

Smith sets goals for state race

Smith said he was hoping to run the 800 meters in 1:56 at the district meet. He came up just shy of that goal, but he is optimistic.

“I’m pretty sure I’ll get it at state,” Smith said.

That goal could be a legacy to leave behind. He said it would be a hard time for future runners to beat. He has already eclipsed the previous school record of 1:58.

Smith and White also will run the 800-meter leg of the medley relay. Aztec’s relay team has the fastest time going into state — 3:38.13. Bloomfield’s medley relay team has the third-fastest time — 3:38.9.

Smith is also competing in the 4x400 meter relay.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.