FARMINGTON — For the first time in school history, the Navajo Prep boys cross-country team can call itself a state champion.
Today in Rio Rancho, the Eagles swooped in and took the class 4A state title by collecting 66 points, five better than second-place East Mountain.
Eagles coach Stephanie Zahne was emotional after the win.
"As a coach, the hardest part is getting the kids to buy into the program and continue to run strong, week after week," she said. "Overall, we had a great season from the start to the end. The move up to 4A was intimidating, but the third-place from 2015 in the 3A division gave the boys a desire to come back competitive. My fondest memory will be telling them they are 4A state champions."
The Eagles weren't top heavy, but they placed five runners in the top 26. That was more than any other school.
Zahne said she was happy for senior Mathis Quintana, who was Prep's top placer in 11th place. Zahne said Quintana has led by example during his four years with the program.
"He's what you call a quiet leader," Zahne said. "From what I observe, the boys value his opinion and words. He planned and executed today's race, and it all worked in his favor. The only thing he was disappointed in was he didn't get top 10."
Shiprock's Aaron Gould closed out a great individual season by placing second at state today. He willed Shiprock into a tie for third place with St. Michael's. Each school scored 82 points.
In the 4A girls race, Shiprock made it onto the podium with 96 points, as a distant third behind first-place Taos (48 points) and second-place East Mountain (57). The Lady Chieftains were led by last week's 1-4A individual champ Khadija Lapahie, who was fifth overall.
The sixth-place Lady Eagles used a solid pack of five girls in the top 48 to edge seventh-place St. Mike's by six points.
Kashon Harrison, Kirtland Central boys place second in the state at the 5A level
For the first time all season, Kirtland Central's Kashon Harrison didn't win a race. Instead, at today's state meet, the sophomore stud had to settle for second, which is also where his team placed in Rio Rancho.
Harrison, who came down with the flu last week according to Broncos coach Lenny Esson, finished 25 seconds behind Albuquerque Academy's Jordan Lesansee.
"To experience getting second place, it would have been something we would have liked to see earlier in the season, not the last race," Esson said. "We have to give Jordan from Albuquerque Academy credit. He's a senior, and they're friends."
First-place Academy was clearly the best team in 5A, as evidenced by its low point total of 39. KC was second with 61, and got top-12 finishes out of Koby Blackwater (seventh), Jacob Hawkins (ninth) and Osean Nez (12th).
Esson was pleased with the performance of his boys.
"For us to be able to get on the podium between Albuquerque and Los Alamos, our first year going up to 5A, I'm very proud of the boys," Esson said.
The Aztec boys were well outside the top three, but comfortably ahead of fifth-place St. Pius X, gaining 108 points and placing fourth.
Three Tigers were in the top 15 — Andrew Day (eighth), Matthew Smith (10th) and Dwight Barton (15th).
Aztec coach Steve Lanier called the 5A boys race the most competitive one he'd ever seen and said he was proud of his top boys for holding their own.
"Kirtland is just so fast, as is Academy and Los Alamos. Our top guys packed up, and they just got right in there and mixed it up with them," Lanier said. "They weren't scared. They just got in there and ran with them."
Esson said that two of Kirtland Central's top three girls, Michaela Hawkins and LaKyla Yazzie, weren't fully healthy heading into today's race, and the Lady Broncos landed in fifth as a team as a result.
KC (139 points) was only 12 points shy of getting on the podium, as Alamogordo earned third with 127. Eighth-grader Chynitta Yazzie was KC's top girl, taking 12th overall.
The seventh-place Lady Tigers were paced by Ashlynn Atwood for the first time this season. Atwood, who took 21st, usurped the team's typical top runner, Hailey Chapman, who snagged 24th.
Farmington's Tanin McDermott and Kassidy Nez represented their school in the boys and girls individual races. McDermott was 33rd among 118 boys, and Nez was 42nd out of 112 girls.
In the 6A individual girls race, Piedra Vista's Paris Chee capped a magnificent season by elbowing her way into the top 10 and taking 10th place by two seconds.
PV's Ben VanOtteson also qualified as an individual, and he earned 38th overall on the 6A boys side.
Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.