RIO RANCHO – Charlie Vause was all smiles Saturday morning, after he handily finished first at the annual Cleveland Invitational, leading last fall’s Class 5Across country champion Rams to the team title.

As if the Rams needed anyone else from that squad – RRHS placed four runners among the top five Saturday, as their team score of 26 was 67 points better than runner-up Volcano Vista, one of the Rams’ District 1-5A foes; 4A Albuquerque Academy (117) was third, followed by host Cleveland (119) and fifth-place La Cueva (139) in the 26-team race.

My dad’s job had an opening in the Albuquerque area,” Vause explained. “I could have lived in Cleveland (district); I could have lived in Rio Rancho. I did end up in Rio Rancho, and (my dad) asked me about it, ‘What would I rather be, the Storm or the Rams?’ At the time, I was indifferent because I didn’t know anything about them. We found a good spot to live in the Rio Rancho (High School) area, with a good cross country team, so, yeah, that’s kinda how the cards were dealt.”

Regardless if Vause became a Ram or a Storm, he’s now living at a mile-high altitude, quite a bit different than running in Ohio, where the family previously resided.

Altitude along makes it harder. My body is just used to sea level, so just training a lot in the summer helped. But, yeah, it was a hard race in that regard,” he said. “It’s a relatively flat course, but the last kind of hill got me a bit.

I definitely could have gone faster today, but I’m contest with what I went.”

His time was 15:31.8, 10.5 seconds head of teammate and runner-up Cody Sullivan.

He confirmed that the course the Rams practice on, once the site of the state cross country meets, was tougher than the Cleveland course.

Look out for Jamboree—that’s gonna be a tough one,” he said. “That’s a rough course.”

Naturally, Vause can be expected to be on the Rams’ track & field roster in the spring; he was a valuable 1,600- and 3,200-meter runner at Milford High in the past.

Charlie has really helped our team out,” Rams distance coach Phil Keller said. “He’s a super-motivated runner and even furthered the culture of hard work and consistency in training. He’s also really supportive of all our runners.”

Rounding out the Rams’ top finishers at Cleveland were Mateo Herrera (fourth/16:03) and Skyler Galbraith (fifth/16:05).

Vince Madalena had the lone top-10 finish for the Storm, comning in ninth in 16:13.

Both boys’ and girls’ teams looked really good,” Keller added. “The boys had real nice front four as Collyn (Tomoyose) fell a little back.  I have no worries that he’ll improve from this start. 

The girls’ team ran great as well, being the top 5A school in the field,” Keller said. “They run as a pack and need to finish close together in order for team success, something they’ve bought into.  Mariah Galbraith was our top girl, as an eighth-grader! Overall, the Rams had a great day.”

The Albuquerque Academy girls edged fellow 4A competitor Los Alamos, 80-86, to win the team title. Rio Rancho (112) placed third. Cleveland was eighth.

Nether City of Vision squad had a top-10 finisher.