The eighth class of the Rio Rancho High School Sports Hall of Fame will be formally inducted Friday at 5 p.m. in the school’s Black Box Theater, and then introduced at halftime of the Rams’ homecoming game that evening vs. Organ Mountain.
Make that two of the three newest members; one member has a class reunion commitment and has sent her regrets.
The newest members are:
Stevie (Puentes) Solano, RRHS Class of 2006
There may be nothing better in athletics than to play for a parent, and that’s an opportunity Puentes did: Her father, Pat, was the Rams’ varsity girls basketball assistant coach when she played for RRHS.
She lettered four years in basketball for head coach Bobby McIntyre, and lettered two years in track as a sprinter on relay teams.
“I’m honored and humbled to join this group of great athletes, many of which I had the privilege of knowing or competing with in my time at RRHS — especially my late cousin Sal (Puentes, 2017 inductee), and my brother-in-law Matt and his brother Max (the Ortegas),” Puentes wrote in an email.
“Although high school seems like a lifetime ago, my time on the court and on the track has definitely helped shape who I am today and provided a foundation for hard work, perseverance and leadership; all of which have been instrumental in my time as a college athlete, career in the military (Air Force) and beyond,” she said.
An unforgettable memory? “The feeling of running down the ramp at The Pit is unlike any other, and I was fortunate enough to do that several times — both as a Ram and later as a Falcon, something that will stay with me forever.”
There are a lot of memories here for Puentes, once the RRHS Female Athlete of the Year.
“I never played a game without having at least one member of my family in attendance, which is a testament to the support I was lucky to have — there was always a ‘Puentes cheering section,’ whether it was my mom and sister in the stands, my dad calling out plays from the bench, my aunt or cousin singing the anthem, or the dozens of extended family members that came to support me and our team over the years.”
She’ll miss the induction ceremony because of an AFA class reunion, “but my parents or my sister will likely be there to accept on my behalf.”
Shelby Pendley, RRHS Class of 2011
The rare Ram with a national championship to her name, Pendley was recalled by A.D. Bruce Carver as “one of the two best female athletes (with Hobbs’ Adrienne Ross) in his athletic career,” coming close to 40 years.
“As far as a competitor, she’d be No. 1,” he added.
After playing a season at the University of Arizona, Pendley transferred to the University of Oklahoma, where she was a key member of the Sooners’ national championship team in 2013.
She was also the Big 12’s Player of the Year.
After winning their 10th Big 12 title last weekend, the No. 1 Oklahoma softball team went on to win the national championship, with former Rio Rancho High School standout Shelby Pendley (Class of 2011) a key part of the Sooners squad.
When the Big 12 postseason awards were handed out, Pendley was among the trophy winners: The sophomore was chosen as Player of the Year.
Even before college, Rams coach Paul Kohman touted her as one of the best, if not the best, prep player in the U.S.
“Without a doubt, she was one of the top-five, if not the top one, hardest-working student athletes I’ve had,” Kohman said, and that encompasses 36 years of being around softball players.
That hard work paid dividends.
After her junior season, she was among 41 athletes who tried out for the U.S. junior national team in June of 2010 – and made it. On that “Estados Unidos” team, she was the starting shortstop and helped her USA squad beat Canada 3-1 to win the gold medal in Bogota, Columbia.
“I always felt Shelby was a pretty good leader; she probably wanted more out of her teammates than she could give, and she was always trying to find out how could she be better,” Kohman added.
Shelby has been an assistant softball coach at Jackson State since March 2021.
Dan Elliott (At RRHS 1997-2022)
Since joining RRHS softball coach Paul Kohman when the school opened in 1997, Dan Elliott’s gotten married, had three children – including softball player and 2022 Ram graduate Katie – and been a key factor in four championships (2003, ’14-15 and ’19).
“I can’t believe this — what an honor,” Elliott said of his induction. “It was a total surprise that assistant coaches got that.”
They do, Dan.
A New Jersey native, he was a military brat whose father moved the family to Albuquerque upon his retirement in 1968. Elliott graduated from Highland High School in 1978.
The men met more than 30 years ago, when Elliott was coaching in Cibola Little League and Paul Kohman liked what he was seeing.
“We started talking and he became an assistant at Cibola, and later helped at Eldorado.”
Asking Elliott to join his staff, Kohman said, “was a no-brainer to me. He helped build a Rio Rancho softball program. He was so great by paying attention to detail with everything with the kids – that’s what m
ake quality teams, not just hard work.
“He’s a longtime, loyal softball coach for a great program and he’s made great contributions,” said Kohman, a charter member of the RRHS SHOF. “His friendship and just the help that he gave, the knowledge that he brought with him – Dan was always willing to do anything we asked of him, and that’s the kind of people you want to have around you.”
Softball is in Elliott’s blood: “I proposed to my wife on the field, after we beat Farmington; we’re coming up on 20th anniversary in September.”
When his wife Kelly gave birth to Katie, Dan couldn’t wait to get her into the sport: “When she was 3 days old is when I took her out to meet the team.”
Later, having a grown Katie on the team, he said, “was exciting; it was fun. I was blessed that she loved the game. She was happy to be there; she wasn’t a star, and she loved being around Paul.”