CNJ Staff Photo: Tony Bullocks Justin Kyle was the top finisher for the Wildcats in Friday’s Clovis Invitational at Ned Houk Park. Kyle’s time of 18:01 was good for 17th. Jacob Lozano of Hobbs was the winner with a time of 15:47.
By Eric Butler: CNJ correspondent
As the sun peeked out from scattered clouds at Ned Houk Park, Wildcats’ junior Caitlin Waters burst to the front of the pack in the girls varsity race — taking the lead as the wide lane at the starting line shrunk to trail-size width.
It was picture perfect start for Clovis coach Mark Bussen, but it was only a snapshot.
In the overall view, Rio Rancho dominated the boys and girls races and Clovis had to settle for minor victories on Friday afternoon.
In the boys meet, the Rams finished with 25 points. Hobbs was a distant second with 76 and Clovis was fifth with 125 in the eight-team field.
In the girls meet, Rio Rancho finished with 33 points, Carlsbad was second with 84 and Clovis fourth with 100.
“It’s a home meet and I really think it affected their performance. There were 15 teams here and, for a lot of them, there was a lot of pressure because this was their first varsity race,” Bussen said afterward. “They’re a great bunch of kids and they’re going to work hard.
I don’t know how they’re going to do, district- or state-wide, but they’re going to be a fun bunch to coach. I’m just excited about how much they’re going to improve.”
Waters’ early lead was gone by the half-mile mark as Carlsbad’s Brandy Castillo took over the pace. A half-mile later, Waters — who won the 800-meter race at last May’s Class 5A state track meet — was in third. Eventually, Waters finished fifth with a time of 20:24 while Castillo’s mark of 19:07 won her the race. Overall, Rio Rancho placed nine entrants in the top 16 places — including third-place finisher Tamara Lementino.
“My goal was to get out in front and stay out in the front with the leading pack — the first group of girls. That worked out for a little while, then I just kind of died out,” Waters said.
“We just need to work on a little aggressiveness with Caitlin. She’s obviously a real talented runner and pleased that she at least made that effort to get out there and get a feel for what that might be like,” Bussen said. “She’s never really done that before. In track, in the 800, you can jump out there because it’s going to be over in a couple of minutes. In cross-country, it’s a little more scary.”
Clovis’ next-best finisher in the girls race was Meave Keane, an eighth-grader from Yucca who placed in the top 20.
In the boys varsity race, Hobbs’ Jacob Lozano was first with a time of 15:47 while Rio Rancho’s depth paved the way for the Rams to get seven of the top 11 finishes.
For Clovis, the top time was junior Justin Kyle’s 18:01 — good enough for 17th overall. Freshman Kenan Bussen was the Cats next across the line, in 28th place.
“We’ve got two juniors that have run one season before this, a couple of sophomore and a freshman in our top five, so they were scared to death all week about this race,” Mark Bussen said.