Navajo Prep runners pull together in small school race less than a day after bus robbery

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FARMINGTON — The Shiprock girls cross-country team held its own in the championship race of Saturday’s Rio Rancho Jamboree, finishing fourth behind a trio of stellar 6A schools.

Rio Rancho, Sue Cleveland and Volcano Vista were the only three teams out of the 24 who ran to place higher than the Lady Chieftains.

Lacey Howe (16th place), Khadija Lapahie (25th) and Destiny Rockwell (30th) helped 4A Shiprock earn a point total of 143. The closest 4A school to the Lady Chieftains was Pojoaque Valley, who was 80 points out.

“The girls are believing that they can make the podium at the state meet again this season,” Shiprock coach Alice Kinlichee said. “The girls have been so consistent with their tight pack."

The meet showcased the top schools in New Mexico along with other schools from Arizona. There were six races among varsity teams, broken down into three divisions: Championship races, large school races and small school races.

Three local 1-5A girls teams cracked the top 20 in the championship race. Piedra Vista was 15th, Farmington was 18th and Aztec was 19th.

PV came in off a bye, but used the time off to do a lot of volume running ahead of the Jamboree. The finish was a definite step forward for the Lady Panthers, according to coach Sampson Sage.

“Many of the girls were only a few seconds off of their times from the Desert Twilight a couple weeks ago, and the course in Rio Rancho was about 3,000 feet higher,” Sage said. “So those times are really good indicators for us.”

Kendall Williams, who Sage said had a “breakout race” at the Desert Twilight in Arizona on Oct. 2, was 51st among all girls.

On the heels of three consecutive first-place finishes, Farmington freshman McKinzey Allee earned 17th to represent the Lady Scorpions.

“It looks like McKinzey’s kind of distancing herself from the rest of the girls in our district,” Farmington coach Kevin Deswood said. “She was second overall among 5A finishers.”

The Aztec girls were paced by Elana Kresl, who took 27th in the girls championship race.

Though the Kirtland Central girls didn’t run as a unit on Saturday, LaKyla Yazzie ran, and she ran a magnificent race. The freshman took ninth, and was just fractions of a second out of eighth.

The Kirtland boys snagged ninth place out of 29 teams, but more importantly for KC coach Lenny Esson, they looked better than most of the 4A district.

“Had it been the state meet we would have taken second, so that’s a pretty good day.” Esson said.

Kashon Harrison took sixth individually and Aaron Bunny was 15th.

Eight spots below the Broncos in the championship race was the PV boys team in 17th.

Ben Vanotteson (47th) and Ryan Kruger (56th) were the fastest Panther runners.

The Shiprock boys ran to a 21st-place finish. Coach Brian Paniagua thought his team underachieved.

“I thought we were a top-10 caliber team going in,” Paniagua said. “We didn’t run to our potential. We had a really slow start and learned a really good lesson today on how hard it is to erase a bad start.”

Aztec ran well enough to win the large school boys race, placing first out of 28 schools.

Matthew Smith led the way for Aztec by taking ninth place. Dwight Barton (15th) and Andrew Day (23rd) also contributed to the team win.

Farmington’s boys landed in fourth and were 82 points behind Aztec.

Bloomfield earned 18th in the large school girls race and 22nd in the boys event.

Bobcats coach Julian Garcia got a promising run out of eighth-grader Andreea Wilson, who finished in 44th place.

“She ran smart and laid back in the beginning,” Garcia said. “In the second half, she turned it on a bit and ran a smart, tough finish for us.”

Navajo Prep ran in the small school races, and did so with a lot of resolve.

According to Prep coach Stephanie McDonald, the team bus was broken into on Friday while McDonald and the players were eating at a restaurant on the way to Rio Rancho.

Many of the kids had their clothes, wallets and other personal belongings stolen from them.

Still, the Eagles boys team won its race, while the girls placed fifth out of 19 schools.

McDonald said she couldn’t have been prouder of the way her team competed in the wake of the unfortunate incident.

“You’d think that after everything that happened they would have caved, but boy, they stepped up,” McDonald said. “They all encouraged each other all day, too. Words can’t express how proud I am of the way they came together as a team after such an emotional night.”

All seven San Juan County area schools will compete in the Kirtland Central Invite on Friday. The event will begin at 3:30 p.m. at Kirtland Elementary School.

Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.

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