Cross Country preps for State

Cross Country preps for State

NMMI Sports Press

It’s been several years since the Colts qualified a full cross country team for the state meet, but this year they’ll be bringing both a boys’ and a girls’ squad, and head coach Jan Olesinski is excited about the teams he has.

“I think we have a good team,” he said. “If you go to state and compete well, it’s good. We’ll have to see what happens - who knows?”

The Institute runners earned the trip to the tough Rio Rancho course with solid finishes over their closest competitors at the District 3/4AAA meet in Socorro Nov. 3.

Individually, the boys swept through the top 10, taking four of the top five places and six of 10. Junior Carson Perry took the individual title by crossing the line in 16:57, almost a full minute ahead of the No. 2 finisher. The Institute runners then wrapped up the next three places, with only 22 seconds separating junior Juan Aguirre (3rd, 18:06); junior Jeremy Pinon (4th, 18:20); and sophomore Kendrick Jaiden (5th, 18:28.)

Those finishes added up to a mere 20 points in the team tally — the lowest score wins in XC — well ahead of Cobre, which finished with 47, followed by Tucumcari with 57 and the host Warriors at 86.

Rounding out the individuals, soph Henry Dewey was seventh in 18:48, with freshman Johnny Archuleta in ninth at 19:00. And even the remaining three Colts runners: sophomore Ricardo Mata (12th, 19:06); junior Landen Savage (14th, 19:27); and junior Elijah Trotter (16th, 20:13), finished in the top half of the 31-runner field.

“It was a good group,” Olesinski said. “Carson is a very good runner but the other guys are as well. Like Piñon. Like Aguirre. Like Kendrick. Henry came up — he was injured almost all season — and he came up last month and competed very well. Everybody did the best they could and competed well.”

The Lady Colts also took both the team and individual titles, although it was a little bit of a surprise, especially considering their No. 1 runner, junior Mia Walker, was injured and couldn’t compete.

Just as the boys did, the girls’ team earned an easy victory, picking up a mere 26 points compared to Socorro’s 42 and Tucumcari’s 52. With her older sister unable to run, freshman Tessa Walker took up the slack, crossing the line in 21:15, 16 seconds ahead of the second-place finisher.

Another Institute freshman, Christina Robertson, was third in 21:40, then the Colts dominated the remainder of the top 10. Frosh Minnie DeGroot was sixth in 22:51; sophomore Jasmine Munoz seventh; and soph Sophie Valadez ninth in 23:54.

“I knew they had a chance to do very well, but I was very impressed with how they competed,” the coach said.

With far fewer numbers than the boys — the Colts have 19 runners on the roster, while the girls only have six, and two of those were playing volleyball until mid October — Olesinski had most of his girls get experience in junior varsity races during the season.

Mia Walker finished first or near the top in all the varsity races she ran, and the JV runners mostly finished in the top five, with Tessa Walker taking first twice. Tessa ran her first varsity race in the big-school Hobbs Invitational, and managed a strong 20th place. The girls ran in the JV race at the Pecos Invitational, then finally ran at the varsity level all together at Ruidoso, where Tessa Walker took eighth and the others placed well.

“Every race was better and better,” Olesinski said of his girls. “I knew from the beginning that after volleyball they’d be coming out, but I didn’t know Jasmine would run as good as she did.”

And in only their second race as a full team, the girls proved to be a strong squad.

A small part of the NMMI success can be attributed to the school dropping down a district to 3A. Instead of facing Ruidoso, Portales, Silver and Moriarty, they faced Socorro, Tucumcari and Cobre.

But for Olesinski, his team was so strong, he felt they would have done well even against the bigger schools.

“I think we have a good team,” he said. “I think we could even compete with Ruidoso and Portales.”

They won’t have to do that this year, but what happens next is anyone’s guess.

“State is always kind of a question mark,” Olesinski said.

State is always tough, especially the Rio Rancho course, and even the shift to AAA will see NMMI competing against strong northern New Mexico schools. But Class 3A only has four districts, so there are fewer schools (21) than other classes, and NMMI is one of only four district champions.

On the boys’ side, Zuni, Santa Fe Indian School and Cuba won their districts, while Zuni, Robertson and East Mountain took the girls titles.

Olesinski, who will hand over the reins of the team to his wife, Marisha Olesinski, while he travels to nationals with the Bronco cross country team Saturday, is confident his teams are ready.

“We’ll just try to rest,” he said. “I told them to go and have fun and do your best. Be excited and just finish. Whatever we needed to do we did the last two months, now it’s just go and compete.”

Opening ceremonies are at 9 a.m. Saturday at Rio Rancho High School, with the races beginning at 9:30 a.m. The Class 3A boys will run at 10 a.m., with the girls taking on the rugged course at 12:05 p.m.