The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Ram track team optimistic

 

Eric Murray

Portales senior Andrew Villegas practices relay hand-off drills during Wednesday's practice, in preparation for Friday and Saturday's NMAA 4A Track and Field Championships. Villegas is the anchor of the Rams boys 400, 800 and mile relay teams, and will also compete individually in the 400.

PORTALES — One last hand-off. One last jump. One last throw. One last sprint to the finish. Twenty-three Portales track and field athletes — 13 boys and 10 girls — will compete at Friday and Saturday's 2018 Class 4A State Track and Field championships.

Head coach Chris Bachicha is optimistic about this weekend in Albuquerque, as he believes big things could be in store for his squad.

"We're pretty excited and we like our chances," Bachicha said. "If our kids P.R. (Personal Record) or just get higher scores, we've got a good chance of winning this sucker."

The Rams will look to defend one title, a boys 800 relay title from a year ago, and perhaps add a few more along the way. This year's team has the second fastest time in 4A heading into this weekend. St. Mike's is the fastest with a 1:30.99, while Portales is about a second off, at 1:31.95.

The 400 and mile boys relay teams should also be formidable, as they both could score some crucial points in the overall standings. The 4x100 team is the fastest in the state with a time of 44.10 seconds, just 3/100ths ahead of Silver (44.13), while the mile team will need to pick up the pace a bit more, with a current qualifying time of 3:32.55, good enough for third fastest, but over 10 seconds slower than Taos (3:22.46).

There's plenty of boys individuals who should be tough as well. Andrew Villegas, the senior anchor of the relay teams, returned from injury to win a district title in the 400 meter dash last weekend. Villegas' time of 50.94 seconds trails Taos' Jonah Vigil (46.99) and Silver's Brandon Chavez (48.39).

Philip Blidi is No. 1 in the state in shot put (49-01.00), and has one of the top three discus throws (145-02) heading into state. Trevor Rawdon is third in javelin (156-05), while Julian Urioste (6-00.00) is one of the best high jumpers around. Julian Tellez is third best in 110 meter hurdles (15.95 seconds), and fourth in 300 hurdles (41.54).

Perhaps the best Portales individual effort could come from pole vaulter Aiden Cabeldue. Cabeldue is the state's very best, as he comes in with a leap of 13-0. Cabeldue, however, has had jumps of 14 feet in practice, and will look to get closer to that mark to solidify his title chances in Friday's final.

"I've worked a lot on a bigger pole. But, I've had a spot, which means I've had help, getting on it," Cabeldue explained. "Sometimes, if I have more adrenaline, I can get on it and jump 14. The goal for Friday is to jump at least 13, 13-6."

As for the girls, Jessie Campbell has led the charge all year. Campbell is currently tied with Taos junior Faith Powell for No. 1 in the state in high jump with a jump of 5-04.00. Campbell will enter the javelin competition on Saturday, meanwhile, third best at 120-0.

However, the buck doesn't stop there for the Portales girls. Eighth grader Kylyie Paden has been sensational for Portales as of late, as she'll enter the high jump competition with a 4-10.00 and hopes of improving upon that mark. Paden is currently tied for fourth, along with seven others, in the pole vault (8-00.00).

One of those other seven pole vaulters is sophomore teammate Emily Christensen. "It's pretty exciting, it's my first year at state," Christensen said. "I've had some pretty good practices, better (than what I jumped at district) at Eastern (last week), which tied me with the seven other girls. So hopefully I have a better meet at state than I did up here."

As a team, the Portales girls 400 relay enters the state meet eighth out of 16 qualifying teams. Portales' 53.00 second time, however, is within 2.6 seconds of No. 1 Silver (50.4), and less than two seconds off of second-place Moriarty (51.1). The 800 team, on the other hand, will need to shave off almost six seconds to catch Silver (1:46.99).

Overall, Bachicha feels good about this weekend. However, state meets bring out the biggest nerves and fears in everyone, and Bachicha knows he'll need to be not just a track coach, but a calming influence for his kids.

"I think the main thing is to make them understand they belong there," Bachicha explained. "In past track meets, a lot of kids don't achieve their qualifying minimums, so as long as we don't do that, we'll be OK."

 

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