Just after 8 a.m. Saturday, the varsity boys race heard the starting gun. There were 127 runners in this race, the first of eight. (Gary Herron/Observer)


The Volcano Vista High School boys, last season’s Class 5A champions, and the Durango High girls, won the varsity divisions of the annual Cleveland Invitational cross country meet last Saturday at Cleveland High.

The Hawks boys had a team score of 50. The Demons amassed 51.

The Rio Rancho High School boys (61) were third and the Storm boys (130) were fifth. The Rams girls (143) finished sixth, and the Storm did not have enough runners to vie as a team.

It marked the distance debut for Phil Keller, the RRHS cross country coach named to replace former coach Sal Gonzales, who was promoted to athletic director.

“Overall, I am very proud of how everyone performed,” Keller said. “I thought it was a good start and showed us our potential and what is possible for us at the end of season when it matters.”

First, the boys

Sandia’s Steven West, last year’s Class 5A champion, won the race with a time of 15 minutes, 37 seconds.

The boys’ race had 18 teams and 127 runners.

Rio Rancho’s Cody Sullivan was the first city runner to finish, as he was seventh in 16 minutes, 50 seconds.

Rounding out the Rams’ scorers were Mateo Herrera (eighth/16:50), .2 second behind Sullivan; Collyn Tomovose (10th/17:00), Mason Steel (17th/17:22) and Skyler Galbraith (29th/17:44).

Also running for the Rams were Benjamin Miera (31st/17:49) and Matthias Parsons (82nd/19:40).

Caden Nunn led the Storm, finishing 12th in 17:05.

He was followed to the finish line by teammates Antwon Shendo (23rd/17:35), Jonathan Sanchez (24th/17:35, .1 second behind Shendo), Preston Bean (40th/18:04) and Colin Ross (49th/18:16).

“It was a very surreal experience, coaching my (first) Rio Rancho cross country meet,” Rams first-year coach Phil Keller said. “I left very proud of my team overall.

“All but one of our athletes (all levels) ran faster than last year at this meet and many improved by several minutes,” he said. “Mateo was our biggest surprise — he crushed it, running over four minutes faster than last year. It really shows what dedication can do to your performance! Our goal on the boys’ side is to get our pack time down (difference between the first and fifth runners).”

“It is hard to know exactly what to expect the first meet out, but I can say our varsity boys did not run the way I believe they can,” said longtime Storm coach Kenny Henry.

“Without making too many excuses, we had some guys coming off sickness or dealing with some small injuries that affected them. But we definitely will have to run better the next time around. Fortunately, I think we have a group of guys who can.”

Now, the girls

Albuquerque High’s Daniela Figueroa won the girls’ race in 19:33.

There were 14 teams and 120 runners. Without usual top-five runner Leah Futey racing, Cleveland senior Eliana Rivera was the first City of Vision finalist, completing the course in eighth place with a time of 20:27. Marisel Yepa (36th/21:57) and Marina Weideman (49th/22:27) were the only other Storm runners in the race.

The Rams were led by Luciana Martinez-Crook (11th/20:47), who was followed by teammates Danika Marquez (15th/20:59), Jamie Hansana (46th/22:19), Isabelle Parsons (47th/22:23) and Zoe Martinez-Crook (49th/22:27).

Briana Robson (52nd/22:44) also ran for the Rams.

“Dani had a great start. She just missed the top-10 and really ran well the last half of the race,” Keller said. “Luci did well leading us this week, and (at the Sept. 10 Lobo Invite), we’ll have Violet Francisco back. Our pack of girls did well working together. We are hoping a couple break out of the pack and move up throughout the season.”

As for Cleveland, Henry said, “We didn’t run a full girls team, again because of sickness and injury, which was a first. But the girls who did run ran great. Specifically, Eliana Rivera … pretty much proved she could run with the best girls in the state.”

The Rams and Storm cross country teams are idle this weekend.

Also at the Cleveland Invite

  • In the 13-team junior varsity boys race, Cleveland’s Vince Madalena won the race in 17:47, leading the Storm to first place, while the Rams were second.
  • In the 10-team girls JV race, RRHS’s Olivia Moody was second, helping the Rams finish third. Cleveland was fourth.
  • In the boys’ C-team run, Cleveland’s Isaiah Sandoval was the winner in 19:44, with the CHSD boys first among nine teams. The Rams were seventh.
  • In the middle school boys’ race, with 102 runners and no team scores, seventh-grader Antonio Pacheco of Mountain View Middle School had the best finish among the locals, placing eighth.
  • In the girls’ middle school run, in which there were 75 runners, MVMS eighth-grader Marizia was first and MVMS seventh-grader Alina Trujillo-Sando was the runner-up.
  • The middle-schoolers ran on a two-mile course.

The first Phil Schroer Middle School Invitational will be held at Rio Rancho High School, with a 9 a.m. start on Sept.10.

Schroer passed away last month at the age of 75; he was a former Cibola High boys basketball coach and athletic director; his last job was as athletic coordinator at Eagle Ridge Middle School.