2019 a year of historical meaning, consecutive state titles and end of glorious eras

Matt Hollinshead, mhollinshead@daily-times.com

FARMINGTON – It was a year of historical meaning, consecutive state titles and the end of glorious eras in and around San Juan County.

Here are notable story lines from the 2019 calendar year:

Aztec hosts first-ever New Mexico girls wrestling tournament

The Land of Enchantment's top female wrestlers converged on Lillywhite Gym in Aztec on Jan. 25 for the first-annual regular-season girls tournament, demonstrating they can duke it out just like their male counterparts.

Princess Altisi and Makayla Munoz represented the Tigers as they faced tough competition from schools like Miyamura, Belen and Albuquerque Academy. Teams like Bernalillo and Los Alamos also competed.

New Mexico doesn't have enough female wrestlers yet to sustain a full schedule and become a state-sanctioned sport.

However, that tournament alone was a giant step in helping the sport grow and become relevant statewide.

All the competitors embraced taking center stage because they were mindful of the bigger picture.

Kashon Harrison cements his legacy among elite distance runners

The Kirtland Central cross country/track and field star, who’s now running at NCAA Division I University of Colorado, ended his high school tenure with back-to-back state track titles in the 1,600-meter run and 3,200-meter run.

And he did so in dominant fashion, beating second-place Duncan Fuehne of Los Alamos in both races by 8.08 seconds and 22.97 seconds, respectively.

Those were the final two blue trophies in a laundry list of accolades. Harrison already won four district titles, two state titles and two third-team All-American honors in cross country in 2018 and 2019.

Harrison had reached a point where he didn’t need outside competition to push himself to such heights.

Harrison reached a point in his tenure with the Broncos where he had essentially won the 1,600-meter run nearing the fourth and final lap. The distance between himself and the rest of the pack was that significant.

That was the kind of measuring stick he had set for himself as a distance runner in preparing for the next level at CU.

More:Tyrese Begay inks with Ottawa University track team

FHS pole vaulter Kiara Quezada wins third straight state title

Quezada broke her own Class 5A record at 12-0 back in April, which she repeated at the 2019 5A state track and field championships.

She immediately turned her attention to obtaining the all-time record of 12-5 while at state.

On the third of her three attempts at it, Quezada was on the cusp of getting it done. However, she barely clipped the bar and didn't quite get the mark.

Quezada will return for the 2020 campaign, and she's now more motivated than ever to become the new all-time record holder before her tenure at FHS ends.

More:Kiara Quezada sets new PR in girls pole vault

Aztec wrestling, PV boys golf win second consecutive state titles

Both teams were built to be front-runners for blue trophies last season.

Both teams had their core groups intact for 2019, and they both got the job done.

Aztec's Christian Robison, Cody Candelaria and Hunter Medina all won individual wrestling titles at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho, while Jaren McBride, Garrett Birzer, Bode Wooley and Caleb Varzeas all placed within the top-three in their weight divisions.

At the Canyon Club at Four Hills in southeast Albuquerque, PV's Tyler Diehl took second place individually while Trey Diehl tied for third place. River Smalley was tied for 13th, while Quinn Yost and Justin Harris were tied for 17th overall.

More:Aztec wrestling team unveils new training facility

Triston Charles wins 5A state cross country title

The Piedra Vista cross country runner ended his tenure with the Panthers at the top, marking a triumphant final chapter to a crazy, head-scratching story.

Jerrick Maldonado of Clovis was initially declared the winner, due to a chip malfunction. However, that was quickly remedied, and Charles was named the state champion with a final time of 16 minutes, 7.60 seconds.

Charles neared his peak by early November, taking second place overall in back-to-back races. And he made that final big push and left as a state champion.

More:PV cross country runner Triston Charles named Daily Times November athlete of the month

Kirtland girls basketball, Bloomfield football both reach state finals

On the hardwood, former Bloomfield and Piedra Vista boys basketball coach Devon Manning returned to his alma mater to coach the Lady Broncos.

It some time for KC to acclimate to Manning's offense, which stresses high-percentage shooting and smart ball movement. It differed from the run-and-gun style Kirtland's basketball faithful were accustomed to. 

A few weeks into Manning's first year in charge, the Lady Broncos had their first breakout game by scoring 65 points against Española Valley.

Things began clicking from there, and Kirtland earned the No. 1 seed in the 4A playoffs and obliterated Shiprock, Portales and EV along the way.

KC lost 49-43 to girls basketball power Los Lunas, but reaching the finals alone was remarkable because of how fast Kirtland learned Manning's offense.

On the gridiron, the Bobcats had their core group on defense back for 2019, accompanied by an explosive offense, which averaged 44.8 points per game.

Despite falling 23-0 to Portales, Bloomfield was built to return to the big stage for a second consecutive year.

The offense kept it simple with quick flats and out routes, prolonging drives that way. The defense was still speedy and relentless front to back, constantly attacking the pocket and forcing turnovers.

Matt Hollinshead covers sports for the Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577 and on Twitter at @MattH_717.