New Mexico cross country retrospective: the 1980s saw the girls become relevant

Matt Hollinshead,

FARMINGTON — Girls cross country started coming to the forefront in New Mexico during the 1980s after becoming a state-sanctioned sport in 1979.

Then came a new go-to area for great competition outside of Albuquerque: The Four Corners.

Here are some of the notable names from the 80s:

Tucumcari’s Michelle Montoya, Peñasco’s Elizabeth Gonzales

Both Montoya and Gonzales had big stretches of small-school dominance during the early 1980s.

Montoya won three straight individual state titles between 1982 and 1984, while Gonzales won four straight individual titles between 1982 and 1985.

The duo were the first two female runners in New Mexico history to string together consecutive state titles in one given sequence.

Montoya's times were 18 minutes, 32 seconds, 18:44 and 19:21, respectively.

Gonzales' times were 18:58, 19:09, 19:47 and 19:58, respectively.

Gallup’s Verna Woody, Bloomfield’s Angie Lee

Woody secured individual 4A titles in 1982 (17:52) and 1984 (18:32). That helped set the stage for Gallup to dominate the girls cross country landscape alongside Los Alamos over the next two decades.

Lee won a pair of individual titles for the Bobcats in 1986 and 1987, and those accolades helped cross country explode in popularity and recognition in and around San Juan County.

Lee's times were 19:57 and 19:26, respectively.

The Crownpoint girls, Newcomb girls

Both teams won consecutive state titles by the late 1980s, creating some parity during a time that was otherwise dominated by Laguna Acoma. Laguna Acoma came off seven straight team titles between 1979 and 1985.

Crownpoint won two straight titles in 1986 and 1987, while Newcomb won state titles in 1988 and 1989 before securing a three-peat in 1990. Both teams, located in the Four Corners, also had a hand in growing girls cross country’s evolving presence.

The Gallup boys

The Bengals became the next dominant squad to emerge, winning the first seven of its of state record 12 consecutive titles during the 80s.

During the second half of the decade, Gallup showcased its talented roster in the form of four different runners bringing home individual titles. That group included Virgil Thomas, who won back-to-back 4A state titles in 1986 and 1987. Thomas' times were 15:36 and 15:50, respectively.

Jemez Valley’s Victor Chinana

Jemez Valley briefly overthrew 70s power Laguna Acoma as the top small-school boys squad in the early 80s — ending a 13-year state title drought in 1980 — because it had a rising star in Chinana.

Chinana won his second consecutive individual state title in 1980 (19:34), later securing a three-peat in 1981. Chinana's time in 1981 was 15:50.

Chinana jumpstarted Jemez Valley’s success as the decade went on. That soon led to Jemez Valley’s Benjamin Mora winning back-to-back individual state titles in 1984 and 1985, as well as Jemez Valley’s six team titles during the 1980s. Mora's times were 16:01 and 15:58, respectively.

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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