This photo, showing the Cleveland High boys’ soccer team rejoicing after their final game of the season, is a valid chopice for a top-5 story of the year. Is it? See the Jan. 5 sisue of the Observer and find out. (Herron photo)



After Observer sports editor Gary Herron’s first full calendar year on the job, he began an annual “top sports stories of the year” list to celebrate great events/athletes/teams of the year, which all began in 2001.

Often, the athletic directors at the high schools – namely Gary Hveem, Larry Chavez, Bruce Carver and Matt Martinez – would suggest some of their favorites for the annual lists.

Before RRHS teams started winning individual and state championships, it was sometimes an arduous process to find 10 great stories, then, after Cleveland High opened its doors and began winning titles, it became more of a chore to limit it to just 10 – and sometimes, there was a top 12 list.

Occasionally, space considerations restricted the list to 10.

This year, the Observer stopped at 10 — stories 6-10 are in the Dec. 29 edition of the Observer — although there were other worthy stories to consider:

  •  The trio of RRHS coaches winning milestone games/matches (baseball coach Ron Murphy’s 600th, volleyball coach Toby Manzanares’ 500th and boys’ basketball coach Wally Salata’s 300th).
  • The plethora of coaching changes at the two schools, with most of them at RRHS coming about by the promotion of former cross country and boys track coach Sal Gonzales to athletic director; CHS’s lone coaching change was the move of longtime assistant Robert Garza to head football coach after previous head coach Heath Ridenour took an assistant’s job at UNM.
  • Former Rams lineman Grant Hermanns appearing in three NFL games with the New York Jets; he’s since been on the Miami Dolphins’ practice squad.
  • Cleveland High School adding an Athletics Hall of Fame.
  • The announcement that Rio Rancho would be getting an ECHL hockey team, the New Mexico Raptors, to play at the Rio Rancho Events Center in the 2023-24 season. That has yet to be formally worked out and finalized by the ECHL … maybe it’ll be a real story for 2023. 


2001: RRHS volleyball team is state runner-up

2002: RRHS volleyball team wins state title

2003: RRHS wrestlers overcome adversity to win title

2004: RRHS boys track team wins first state trophy

2005: RRHS boys golf team wins state championship

2006: RRHS volleyball: Four titles in five years

2007: RRHS baseball team rules at Isotopes Park

2008: RRHS girls cross country team wins state

2009: RRHS’s Max Ortega wins fifth state wrestling title

2010: Rio Rancho gets a professional basketball team

2011: Storm win on (May)field of Dreams

2012: Third time’s the charm — Cleveland volleyball wins state title

2013: Walk-off foul sac fly gives Rams 3rd baseball title

2014: RRHS football team wins first state championship

2015: The Perfect Storm II: Cleveland wins state football title

2016: RRHS boys basketball wins state for first time since 2007

2017: Cleveland wrestling team wins state

2018: Cleveland boys soccer team wins state

2019: Cleveland High beats Rio Rancho in 6A championship football game

2020: COVID-19, Sports 0 (Pandemic year)

2021: Cleveland football team beats Rams, wins fourth blue trophy

2022: ????