New Mexico cross-country retrospective: the 1960s symbolized a dominant start to the sport

Matt Hollinshead,

FARMINGTON — The 1960s were the just the beginning of cross-country in the Land of Enchantment, highlighted by its share of dominant runners.

The New Mexico Activities Association’s website has kept track of boys cross-country results dating back to 1960, when the classifications were B, 1A and 2A.

Cross-country became a sanctioned high school sport for boys in 1960 and the state championship occurred in Albuquerque. The current standard of a 3.1-mile race had not been set, and races were closer to 2 miles in length during the 1960s.

The NMAA’s first season for girls cross-country was in 1979.

As the start of the 2020 campaign approaches, it’s time to look back at the state’s rich history in cross-country, starting with some notable 1960s names:

Gerry Garcia, Spanish American Normal School at El Rito 

Garcia dominated the first five years of the decade, securing state titles in all of his five seasons (1961-1965) to join the all-time elites.

Garcia steadily improved his official time in each of his first four years (11 minutes, 6 seconds in 1961, 10:57 in both 1962 and 1963, 9:32 in 1964). He also concluded his tenure at El Rito with title No. 5 in 1965 with a time of 9:41.

The El Rito boys won three straight team titles between 1961 and 1963.

El Rito, which served Spanish-speaking students in Rio Arriba County between 1909 and 1969, was later moved to a campus in Española as part of the larger vision for what is now Northern New Mexico College.

Silver’s Joe Espinosa

Espinosa won three straight state championships in 1965, 1966 and 1967. 

Espinosa gradually improved his official time each of those three championship seasons, with a major advancement coming in 1967.

Espinosa’s time in 1965 was 10:15, followed by a 10:06 performance in 1996 and a time of 8:50 in 1967.

The Silver boys won team titles in 1962, 1964 and 1965.

The Highland boys

Highland opened and closed the decade strong when it comes to boys team results, winning state titles in 1960 and securing a three-peat from 1967 to 1969.

Lloyd Goff (1960 winner at 10:08) and Stan Hill (9:54 in 1966 winner at 9:54, 1967 winner at 8:56) both won individual state titles.

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

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