Fort Sumner junior Sandy Fortner is the Class 2A state record holder in the long jump. Photo courtesy of Andrew Chavez/imastore.com
By Rick White
Sandy and Kelly Fortner have been twin terrors since they burst onto the state track scene as precocious eighth-graders four years ago.
The past two seasons the speedy sisters and identical twins propelled Tucumcari to back-to-back Class 2A state titles.
The daughters of a teacher and coach, the Fortners moved to Fort Sumner this year, instantly turning the Vixens into the team to beat in Class 1A.
But Kelly suffered a serious knee injury late in the basketball season, throwing the state title up for grabs and leaving Sandy uneasy without her sister and best friend on the track heading into this weekend’s state meet at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.
“She always been in uniform with me,” said Sandy, a state record holder in the high jump and long jump. “Until this year I’ve never handed the baton to anyone on the sprint relay except my sister.”
Sandy said she’d like to do something special at the state meet in her sister’s honor.
“She loves track,” said Sandy, who will also compete in the 200 meters, 300 hurdlers and triple jump. “Track is her strongest sport.”
The two-day meet also features two other versatile standouts looking to lead their teams to a state title.
Carrizozo is looking for its fourth-straight title behind senior sprinter Ariel Burr, while House senior Haily Lee was the high-point individual at last year’s meet.
Burr, who has won 19 gold medals at state, is the heavy favorite in the 100, 200 and 400 while Lee excels in the 110 and 300 hurdles plus the pole vault.
Carrizozo coach Mel Holland doesn’t think his team has a chance to stick with the likes of Fort Sumner, House and Floyd.
“I don’t think we have much of a chance to win four in a row,” said Holland, a 1968 Fort Sumner High grad. “We’re a little shorthanded behind Ariel because of injuries and a couple of girls moved away.
Burr, who has signed with New Mexico, is a 5-foot-4 powerhouse. Her best race is the 400, where she is five seconds better than the field.
“Her turnover rate is incredible,” Holland said. “The neat thing has been to watch her mature as a runner and a person.”
While each of the three standouts have their specialties, they will go head-to-head in a few events.
Burr and Fortner have the top two times in the 200. Lee and Fortner are both in the 300 hurdles. And all three are in the triple jump.
“It’s good to go out and compete against the best,” said Lee, who is hoping to lead House to the school’s first state title in any sport. “It pushes me to do my best.
“Athletically, I think we’re all pretty close. It will probably come down to who has the better day.”
Fortner, who at 5-10 towers over Burr, is looking forward to going head-to-head in the 200.
“She’s really fast,” Fortner said. “I’m really looking forward to the challenge. I think she’ll give me an extra push.”
Fort Sumner coach Brian Fortner said his daughter’s injury changed the dynamics of his team and the state meet.
“If Kelly was in the picture, I don’t think anybody could beat us,” Fortner said. “But now, I think any of five teams could win it.”
He’s especially concerned about Floyd, as is House coach Jason Lee.
“Floyd is tough,” said Lee, who is Haily’s uncle. “They don’t have any one standout but they have five or six girls that can really run.
“In order for us to win, we’re going to have to have everything go right.”
o Janea Eshleman, 8th-grader, Melrose, 100, 200
o Tobea Patterson, jr., Fort Sumner, 800, high jump
o Jennifer Blackburn, jr., Grady, discus, javelin
o Laurel Herrera, fr., Fort Sumner, javelin
o Fort Sumner, 800, medley, 1,600
o Amber Parmer, jr., Texico, 100, long jump
o Erika Rivers, so., Texico, pole vault, triple jump
o Texico, 1,600