By Dave Wagner
Mario Martinez knew that, barring something way out of the ordinary, his Fort Sumner boys track team would repeat its Class 1A state championship over the weekend in Albuquerque.
Winning four of five finals on Friday put the Foxes in a nearly unbeatable position, but they did what they could to prevent a letdown.
“As I told the team, ‘You still have to go up there and perform. But the only team that can really beat us is ourselves,’” Martinez said. “At the team meeting (Friday) night, our goal became to surpass the 118 points from last year.”
They did that, finishing with 11 firsts and 125 points — 77 ahead of runnerup Mountainair.
Adding to Fort Sumner’s pleasure, the girls made it a sweep by posting a three-point margin (52-49) over District 3-1A rival Floyd for team honors.
Martinez has spent the past 12 years as Fort Sumner’s athletic director and football and boys track coach. In that time, his teams have won five state titles each in football and track.
But he may not be back. Martinez has applied for the position of associate athletic director for men’s athletics with the New Mexico Activities Association, and believes he has a good chance to get it.
“The interviews will be (Monday),” said Martinez, who for the past two years has been chairman of the NMAA commission and thus had a spot on its board of directors. “I’m excited, and feel like I have a good chance. I’ve been involved in that organization in one way or another for a long time.”
He said he sees it as a new challenge, adding that if he isn’t selected he’s not sure what he’ll do.
“I’d have to look at what direction I want my life to go,” Martinez said.
Several seniors were instrumental in the Foxes’ state domination. Gerid Higgins earned high-point honors for the meet, winning three individual events and running on winning 800 and 1,600 relays for 26 points.
Roel Canales and Patrick Reagan were also double individual winners, and Canales ran on both winning relays.
“This senior group has been with me all along,” Martinez said, also including pole vaulter Lewis Meadows and thrower John Sena. “They started in the program as eighth graders. They’ve experienced a lot of success, and that’s made my job a lot easier.
“It was a good meet for us; we made very few mistakes. There’s always places where you’d like to place higher, but how can you complain?”
The girls, on the other hand, knew they were in a battle with several teams for the title. Junior Sandy Fortner claimed wins in high jump, long jump and the 300 hurdles and placed second behind Carrizozo senior standout Ariel Burr in triple jump and the 200, edging Burr by one-half point (31-30 1/2) for high-point honors.
Freshman Laurel Herrera added a win in discus, throwing a personal-best 109-10 to win by more than four feet.
“We knew it was going to be close,” Vixens co-coach Cris Dimitroff said of the team race. “We’d seen Carrizozo early in the year, and we knew they had a good field event person and, obviously, they had Burr. And Floyd obviously had some good athletes.
“Basically, we took (nine) kids that wanted to accomplish that, and it was an across-the-board effort. Kids may have contributed in what some people think are small ways, but they were all important.”
Co-coach Brian Fortner said several Vixens who were competing with injuries — Herrera (knee), Tobea Patterson (hip), Shannon Wilson (knee) and Kaylynn Johnson (pulled muscle) — ran through the pain to help the team win.
“The key was our injured runners and throwers all finished the meet and competed well; if they hadn’t, we wouldn’t have won,” Fortner said. “It’s been a great year. We really have some hard-working girls.”