Broncos eye another podium finish this year

Karl Schneider
  • Navajo Prep is set to return its top five runners from last year.
  • Off-season workouts have the Panthers ready for the jump to 6A.
  • Shiprock is poised to improve on last year's seventh-place finish at state.

FARMINGTON — The Kirtland Central boys cross-country team is ready for the jump to 5A.

Kirtland Central's Kashon Harrison sprints to the finish line in the 4A boys state cross-country championship meet on Nov. 6 in Albuquerque.

The Broncos were moved from 4A to 5A this year as the result of reclassification. And after a third-place finish at last year’s 4A state meet, KC will return four of its top five finishers, including individual champion hopeful Kashon Harrison.

“We have pretty much the same focus from last year. The move to 5A just means we’re running against bigger schools,” KC coach Lenny Esson said. “Our goal is still to get on the podium in district and at state. We want to stay consistent and finish in the top three.”

Harrison, a sophomore, placed third overall at last year’s meet, and his time of 16:23 would have been good for fourth in 5A.

Looking to challenge the Broncos in District 1-5A will be the Aztec Tigers.

The Tigers, who placed seventh at state last year, don’t boast a standout runner like KC’s Harrison, but they have strong runners up and down the roster, and head coach Steve Lanier said the team will bring back three of its top five runners from last year with Andrew Day poised to pace the team this season.

Farmington and Bloomfield will be eyeing a return to the state meet after missing the 2015 version.

Bloomfield didn’t qualify any individual runners a year ago while the Scorps sent one representative in Tanin McDermott, who placed 19th overall as a junior.

After a seventh-place finish in 4A last year, Shiprock could be destined for a better showing this year with three of its top five finishers from 2015 — Aaron Gould, Justin Yazzie and Aaron Lee — set to return this season.

Also working in the Chieftains’ favor is that two of the six teams that finished ahead of them in 2015 — Zuni and KC — are no longer in 4A.

Navajo Prep joins Shiprock in 4A this season. The move from 3A to 4A will present a challenge for the Eagles, but similar to KC moving to 5A, the team looks capable of handling the jump. The Eagles placed third in 3A a year ago and will return all seven of the runners the team sent to the state meet.

Piedra Vista also saw a move in class after being bumped up to 6A this year. Panthers coach Sampson Sage said the team is aware of the challenge it will face moving from 5A to 6A, and he is excited about the progress his runners have shown during the summer.

“The returning runners are head and shoulders above of where they were,” Sage said. “They put in the work during the summer, and they’re starting to reap the rewards of that work.”

Aztec, Bloomfield and Farmington will start their seasons at the Aztec Invitational Thursday.

Prep will join Shiprock at the Rehoboth Christian meet on Friday, and PV and KC will get their season started on Saturday at the University of New Mexico Lobo Invitational in Albuquerque.

Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.