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

New path for Wildcats

Clovis expects to be competitive in new district.


August 30, 2018

Kevin Wilson

Clovis cross country members do their stretches before they take off to Ned Houk Park for practice Tuesday afternoon. The Clovis teams will be at Ned Houk Friday afternoon for the season-opening Clovis Invitational, one of two home meets this year. Clovis will also host the District 4-5A championship on Nov. 2.

CLOVIS — Both Clovis cross country teams, boys and girls, see the program’s move to District 4-5A as an opportunity.

Competing as they did in recent years against mostly 6A Albuquerque schools provided a good test but brutal competition. 4-5A, though highly competitive, should offer Clovis a chance to fare better this season, especially the boys, who placed fourth in 6A last year as it was.

With a strong, experienced contingent back and looking for greater achievements, Clovis’ boys may well contend for a state crown, or at least a visit to the trophy stand for a second- or third-place finish.

“Anything less than that will be a disappointment,” Wildcats head coach Mark Bussen said Tuesday at Clovis High School, just before hopping on a bus that would carry him to a practice at Ned Houk Park.

Returning from last year’s fourth-place state 6A team are: senior Jon Fuentes; junior T.J. Gregg, the team’s captain; senior Jose Salas; sophomore Jerrick Maldonado; and junior Kannon Brooks.

Fuentes, a seventh-place finisher in state 6A last autumn, has quality experience with Clovis’ track and field program, too, helping that boys team post a third-place state 6A finish last May in Albuquerque.

Maldonado, also a track and field contributor during the spring, split his fall-season time last year between cross country and soccer, which won’t be an issue anymore. “This year he’s going to be a lot better because he’s focusing on running,” Bussen said.

Adding talent and depth to the boys roster are: seniors Bailey Goodgain, Elias Calderon, Raymond Garcia, James Burroughs and Collin Nguyen; juniors Caleb Carlton, Wyatt Smith and Jakob Griego; sophomores Colton Wolf and Damien Santarosa; and freshman Kyle Robinson.

It’s a strong group for Bussen, entering his 21st season in Clovis’ cross country program.

“The boys are going to be fun,” Bussen said. “They’re going to be fun to coach, fun to watch.”

The girls have a fleet-footed team led by senior captain Faith Hays and junior Analysse Hamlett, the team’s top jayvee runner last year.

“I’m going to rely pretty heavily on their leadership,” Bussen said. “They provide a lot of leadership and work ethic for the team.”

He also thinks seniors Veronica Perez, Layla Walley and Fatima Hernandez might be assets in those departments.

Other runners who could make the team better and deeper comprise a young but energetic group: sophomores Ali Tree, Aryssa Aberto and Yazmin Ledesma; freshmen Shylee Tree and Ava Munoz; and eighth-grader Mariah Aberto.

There is plenty of potential there, but Bussen is waiting to see how it all comes together.

“The girls are going to be a work in progress, so to speak,” he said. “It’s hard to tell where we are talent-wise. I don’t think we’re as fit as the other teams, so I think we might get thumped early on.”

As the team evolves, though, Bussen thinks it can be solid, especially in 4-5A.

“Now we’re going to have a great shot to get qualified and get to the state meet,” he said of a goal the girls program didn’t reach over the past few years while in 6A. “So I think that’s going to be one of the great motivators for this team.”

The long road begins Friday at 3 p.m. with the Clovis Invitational at Ned Houk Park, a chance for the Wildcats to dive right into their new district competition, as Carlsbad, Hobbs and Roswell are all expected to participate.

“It’ll give us a good idea of what we need to do in the future,” Bussen said. “So it should be a good measuring stick.”


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