Special To KRTN
By Coach Malano
The Raton lady sprinters accomplished something that has not been done since even before the Dana D. Romero and Penny Miller era. This past Saturday the girls won the New Mexico 3A State Track Championship in the 4×100 and 4×200 meter relays. Led by seniors Estrella Vargas and Alina Pillmore, the Lady Tigers finished their first race with a time of 50.93 which was just six tenths of a second off of the NM 3A state record in the 4x100m relay (50.33) and four hundredths off of the school record (50.89) set in 1979 by Susan Mutton, Gina King, Dana D. Romero (Medina), and Penny Miller (Lopez). The girls later turned in a time of 1:48.68 in the 4x200m relay that was just shy of the school record of 1:48.10 set in 1981 by Marla Padino, Dana D. Romero, Susie Mutton, and Sara Rivera. Tellingly, the two winning times posted on Saturday were the best times of any girl’s team in the modern FAT or Fully Automatic Timing System.
The Tigers took six girls and one boy to the state meet qualifying two girl’s relays and several individual events. Ismael Vargas started the day off for the Tigers and finished 10th out of 13 competitors with a jump of 17’7.75.” The jump was just shy of Ish’s personal best but was a great showing for a young athlete competing for the first time. The girls 4×100 and 4×200 relays easily qualified for finals early on Friday and Ismael’s older sister Estrella Vargas then jumped into finals in the long jump but missed the podium by two places with a jump of 15’4.75.” Kerrigan Weese also threw her self into the discus finals with a throw of 87’2.” Kerrigan finished in 7th place and barely missed the podium.
The finals for the girl’s 4x100m relay was started by Reigan Snow who came out of the blocks clean and made up the stagger from lane 3. Snow handed off to Alina Pillmore who further closed the gap on a few more competitors and made a smooth transition to Montana Martinez who dominated the curve as usual and got the baton to anchor Estrella Vargas. The race was no longer in question as Estrella safely secured the Lady Tiger’s victory by a good 6 meter margin. Estrella and Montana had to head immediately back to the check-in to get ready for the 100m dash. Estrella finished a close second with a personal best of 12.93 and Montana finished 8th with a solid time of 13.60.
The main event came at 1:00pm on Saturday when the girls stepped on to the track with the Santa Rosa Lady Lions. The Lady Lions have the state of New Mexico’s fastest sprinter in junior Mikayla Garnand who won the 100, 200, and 400 meter dashes in class 3A. Garnand took 2nd in the long jump on Friday and was anchoring the 4x200m relay. The Lady Lions had three legs of the 4×200 that were faster than ours. The Lady Tigers posted a season best time of 1:49.35 in the prelims on Friday which was easily bested by Santa Rosa in the next heat with a time of 1:48.96. The stage was set and the girls knew that they would have to run their best race to beat the Lady Lions. The reliable Reigan Snow started the race again for the Tigers getting a big lead on the Lady Lions and making up the stagger from lane 4. Montana Martinez gave an outstanding effort to build a lead in first place and made a perfect handoff to 8th grader Baylor Walton. Baylor got off to a strong start and was caught by Santa Rosa’s Cassandra Sisneros. Baylor gave a second effort in the last 40 meters of the third leg to keep Sisneros from moving safely into lane 1. Baylor got Estrella the baton in the first few steps of the exchange zone while Santa Rosa struggled to get their baton through the zone. Garnand was able to best Vargas in three individual events but there was no way she was going to catch “Strella” in this race. The result was another state championship and a team best time of 1:48.68. Estrella finished her day as an individual with a 3rd place finish and a time of 27.10 in the 200m dash. The Lady Tigers placed 6th overall with 29 points.
I would like to thank Coach Ashley Walton who has been with me for the past three years. Coach Ashley is not only the best team mom but also the voice of reason when it comes to strategy and analyzing the effort of our athletes. I would not remember my head or my sunscreen and sweat pants if it was not for Coach Ashley. I would also like to thank volunteer Coach Brock Walton who developed a sprint plan for our athletes that got them to peak at the right time and obtain personal best times. I believe we have the best conditioning plan in all of class 3A.
I would like to thank Coach Abe Elliott who volunteered time to teach our jumpers and prepare them for state. Thank you to Coach “Hunker” Main who helps every year with our throwers. A special thanks is due to Coach Joe Giglia (formerly of the Cimarron Rams) who took the time to teach me a few things about coaching young athletes and whose relays and exchanges we have tried to model here at Raton. Coach Giglia helped me to develop a strategy that I believe gave us the best chance at state. Thank you Coach G.
I need to thank seniors Estrella Vargas and Alina Pillmore. Estrella brought leadership to the team and gave us an elite runner with the speed and power to compete at the highest level in the relays. Alina brought strength, leadership, and solidarity to our team. Alina rolled with every move I made while figuring out the sequence for the relays and found her a spot on the 4×100. Her efforts helped us to secure the win in that relay. I believe that I can speak for Coach Ashley and Coach Brock when I say that these girls have exceeded the expectations we set for them. Thank you to all of you girls! You girls put in the work, you ran the races, and you earned your prize. Congratulations on your accomplishments and thanks for one hell of a ride!