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Bayfield, Ignacio cross-country look to survive Bayfield hills

Bayfield, Ignacio XC teams at home at Southwest Challenge

Last week in Alamosa? Speed. This week in Bayfield? Strength and survival.

“As one of my middle-schoolers put it,” recalled Bayfield cross-country head coach Josh Walton, “our course is her favorite because she loves seeing the faces of every one of the other teams when they see the hills. I was like, ‘That is a fantastic answer as to why our course should be your favorite.’”

And indeed, the Wolverines’ skipper noted that the middle school features this Saturday at the 2019 BHS Invitational – appropriately, given the varying terrain, also dubbed the “Southwest Challenge” – will definitely be worth a watch, as entry numbers have reportedly reached triple figures.

“Right now, I have over a hundred middle-schoolers, so those will be fun,” Walton said. “The high school races, I think we’re not going to have as many teams as we did last year, but we’re looking forward to a good race.”

And with good reason considering a strong boys’ showing at the Joe Vigil Open at which not only did most – if not all – of Bayfield’s gents establish new season-bests, but the squad combined to better the Alamosa Mean Moose on their own Cattails Golf Course route.

“For the most part, I feel like the kids ran the times that they’re capable of,” said Walton. “Having 400 athletes in one race, the boys really had to get out quick, otherwise they kind of got bottlenecked and got stuck. But they didn’t, got out like they needed to and put themselves in a place that allowed them to have success throughout the race.”

Varsity anchors Elco Garcia Jr., Jonas Nanaeto and Zeb Shields all finished within the top 35, with Shields actually coming in ahead of Nanaeto, while the crucial No. 4 and 5 finishers enjoyed something of a breakout day – the sort of showing Walton hopes he’ll witness again on the rugged Pine Valley Church course.

“Rylan (Ross) came in really well at 18:42, and he knows he needs to close the gap on Jonas; his goal is to get closer, just because he knows it improves our score overall,” said Walton. “And then our No. 5 was Royce Hinojosa, who ran 20:04, but Michael Everett was 20 seconds behind him, Shane Moore wasn’t that far behind (Everett), and then Xander (Hovenstine) and James (Chenowith) were right behind them.

“Royce wants to stay in that No. 5 spot, but the others are all wanting it, too. So, it’s kind of fun to see the competitiveness in the boys, but the teamwork that they’re doing, too.”

Only two BHS girls made the trip out to the San Luis Valley for the Open, but personal record performances against a field numbering at least 300 are reason enough for Walton to remain optimistic about his young runners’ progress.

“Abria ran a really good race,” he said of Abria Thayer. “Got a little bit of an injury she’s dealing with right now, so we’re trying to get that – her ankle – fixed, but she’s putting in the work and doing really well.

“Tatumn Millward-Boling ran, like, 2½ minutes faster than her previous PR, so that was big.”

Despite rainfall in the area earlier this week, Walton said he believes conditions will still be favorable.

“It’s looking OK the last I checked,” he said Wednesday night. “The precipitation’s actually been kind of nice because with our course being all dirt, it’s kind of getting the dust down a little, so that we won’t have as much of a dust bowl when our racers take off.”

Bobcats in the pack

Also in the girls’ high-school varsity mix at the Invitational will be Ignacio, entered in their first meet – and now third overall – since the Aug. 29 Aztec Invitational.

With six schools represented, junior Charlize Valdez ran a third-place 28:24.59, while sophomore Avaleena Nanaeto clocked 33:35.58 and placed 14th. Fellow sophomore D’Vondra Garcia rounded things out for the team with her 32nd-place 44:04.88. Sophomore Lexy Young is reportedly out for the remainder of the fall because of a knee injury.

Show no fear

At the Joe Vigil Open, Elco Garcia Jr., recorded a personal-best 17:03.5 and placed 18th. And though such a time on the demanding route this week might be difficult to repeat, Walton indicated he wouldn’t be surprised to see the senior go all out.

“On our recover runs, Elco’s running it twice, and that’s on a recovery day.” he said. “So yes, he’s running a mountain, but he gets to kind of run at his own pace, and I see it really paying off in the long run; his legs are just getting stronger and stronger.”