Lady Cats grab early lead

Staff photo: Andy DeLisle Clovis senior Kacee Escobar finished second to Alamogordo’s Noel Cardon in the shot. Escobar also finished third in the discus

By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer

ALBUQUERQUE — Clovis High’s girls are leading Class 5A after the first day of the state track meet at the University of New Mexico, but coach Darrel Ray is anything but confident.

The defending 5A champion Lady Wildcats scored 21 points in five field events on Friday, but left some points out there that Ray isn’t sure they can overcome against favored La Cueva.

“We were hoping to qualify some things (for today’s finals), but we didn’t,” Ray said of his team’s five-point lead over Rio Rancho, with Alamogordo third at 12 and La Cueva fourth at 10. “We scored down a little bit in high jump and discus.

“We just didn’t have a real stellar day.”

The boys also had a tough time. They are in fifth place after getting eight points from junior Manuel Robles with thirds in high jump (6-5) and long jump (22-5 1/4), and trail first-place Cibola by 10.

Senior Kacee Escobar had the best day for the Lady Cats, although she fell a little short of what she’d hoped to do. Tied with Alamogordo’s Noel Cardon at 38-4 1/4 going into the final throw in shot put, the Lady Tigers’ senior popped one 40-1 1/2 to take the victory.

Escobar led a 3-4-6 Clovis finish in discus at 120-5, about eight feet off her season best. Cardon finished second to Rio Rancho’s Nicole Zarrella, who went 126-2.

“It was a disappointment,” Escobar said. “I felt I let myself down, and I let my team down.
“I’m happy with my marks, but not satisfied. It’s just a matter of it’s your day sometimes or it’s not.”

Lorena Garza came in behind Escobar at 118-4, while sophomore Meagan Baglien placed sixth at 103-7. Both were well off their season-bests.

“These girls have done some amazing things throughout the year,” said CHS assistant Gabe Apodaca, who coaches the Lady Cats’ throwers. “It just wasn’t their day today, but I’m very proud of what they’ve done this year.”

Clovis also got a third from junior Jasmine McDonald at 5-1 in high jump, and a sixth from freshman Antiesha Brown at 16-8 in long jump.

McDonald, who had a 5A-best 5-5 coming in, easily cleared the first three heights but didn’t come close at 5-3.

The Lady Cats had class-best times in three relays coming in and were second to La Cueva in the 1,600 relay. They advanced all four to today’s finals, although they struggled mightily in the 1,600 relay with a time of 4:24.58 — well off their season-best of 4:07.73.
Also making it to the finals on the track were freshman Tara DeWitt, who qualified eighth in the 200 in 26.65 seconds, and junior Bianca Hampton, seventh in the 100 hurdles in 16.92.

Other events for the Lady Cats today include sophomore Alexa Armijo in pole vault, Brown and junior Janea Eshleman in triple jump and sophomore Caitlin Waters and freshman Michelle Schenk in the 800.

Robles and most of his competitors struggled in high jump, but Rio Rancho’s Marcus Williams finally cleared 6-7 after the others had gone out on 6-5. Williams tried to go 7-1 and break the 5A record of 7-0 — shared by former Cats standout Hank Baskett — but clipped the bar with his heal on his final attempt.

In long jump, Robles was more the victim of bad luck. Hobbs’ Morrecis Franklin went 22-5 1/2 on his final jump to edge Williams and Robles by a quarter inch.

Williams got the tiebreaker over Robles for second based on next-longest jumps.

“I could’ve done a little better,” said Robles, who later qualified for the finals in the 200 with a time of 22.63 and remains a solid favorite to win his third consecutive 5A triple jump title today. “I feel all right about it. I came out and performed my best.”

The Cats qualified senior Brian Mead fourth for today’s 110 hurdles finals in 14.98 seconds, while senior Kolt Merren (11.45) in the 100 meters and the 800 relay team (1:32.24) advanced with eighth-place finishes on Friday.

CHS boys coach Darren Kelley had hoped for a strong weekend to contend for a trophy position (top three).

“It wasn’t a great day by any means, but most of the kids competed well,” Kelley said. “It’s hard to be disappointed when they competed as hard as they did.

“We’ve still got some guys (today) who can score.”

Junior Jordan Mendoza has 5A’s top distance in javelin coming into today’s competition at 182-7. Also, senior Michael Cohen and junior Taylor Muse are seeded 3-4 entering today’s shot put event.