Fort Sumner likely must hold off former 2A schools to win state

Fort Sumner senior Kayla Britain hands the baton to senior Sandy Fortner in the 1,600 medley relay during the Texico Relays April 26 in Texico. Fortner has already won 14 individual state championships. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)

By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer

On paper, it shapes up as a two-team race between defending champions in the battle for Class 1A girls state track honors this weekend in Albuquerque.

Fort Sumner is the defending 1A champion, while Cimarron moved down after winning the Class 2A crown last spring.

Vixens coach Brian Fortner said while Cimarron has an edge in the running events, the Lady Rams aren’t as strong as Fort Sumner in field events and will have to juggle their top people on the track.

“Our changes aren’t as drastic as what Cimarron’s going to have to make,” Fortner said. “The key for us is to finish as high as possible in all four relays. I think Cimarron needs to win all four relays to win the meet.”

Fortner said Jal, Hagerman and Floyd will also be factors in the outcome.

Fortner’s twin daughters, Sandy and Kelly, will each be in five events. Sandy Fortner goes in as the favorite in the 100 and 200 meters, 100 hurdles and long jump and is a close second in the 400 while Kelly Fortner is ranked first in triple jump, third in long jump and shot put and will try to help the Vixens win the 400 and 800 relays.

Sandy, who has already won 14 gold medals in state competition, and Kelly were part of Class 2A state title teams at Tucumcari as freshmen and sophomores, where Brian was an assistant coach.

“We have to pick up a lot of points in the field events,” Brian Fortner said. “The big things are what we do in the relays and Tobea (Patterson) in the 800.”

The Fort Sumner boys are looking for a third consecutive state title under first-year coach Dexter McDaniel.

The Foxes’ chief competition is expected to be Jal, one of several schools which moved down this year from 2A.

“Really, it’s going to come down to who steps up and who doesn’t get hurt,” said McDaniel, who replaced Mario Martinez this year. “It’s going to be a dogfight. We just want to show up and do what we’ve been doing all year.”

The Foxes should score well in hurdles and relays, he said, adding that Melrose, Desert Academy and Hagerman will all have a say.

“It comes down to execution — and luck,” McDaniel said.

Melrose coach Dickie Roybal is hoping for a big weekend from junior Carlos Ruiz, who goes in ranked first in long jump and triple jump, second in the 100 and fifth in the 200.

He also runs the second leg of the Buffaloes’ 400 relay, which comes in ranked second.

Also, Buffaloes junior Cedar Rush is the favorite in the 400.

“Just by adding up points, it doesn’t look like anyone will be able to catch Fort Sumner and Jal,” Roybal said. “After that, it’s real close between Hagerman, ourselves, Desert Academy and Springer.”

In Class 2A, Texico’s girls should do some damage, led by senior sprinter and long jumper Amber Parmer.

“I think Amber has a chance to be in the top five in just about everything,” first-year Lady Wolverines coach Mike Littlejohn said. “She’s definitely our leading runner, week in and week out, and she’s been a real good leader this year.

“I think we could score a few points. They had 18 or 19 last year, and we’d like to get in the 20-plus range.”

For Texico’s boys, senior Braden Vaughan is the two-time defending javelin champion, although he comes in third this year (172-9 1/2) behind Logan Capps of Cloudcroft (193-8 1/2) and Kyle Cherney of Rehoboth (174-8).