Cross Country Historical Overview - Lisa Valle, Julia Kayitah & Robert Golightly Alamogordo's 3 Cross Country State Medalist
Factoid: North American/New Mexico Cross Country Historical Overview
The origins of Cross Country in Alamogordo New Mexico and in North American dates to a game called "Hunt the Fox" or "Hunt the Hare" which had been played in English schools at least since the reign of Queen Elizabeth.
Around 1800 the game was organized at Shrewsbury School into an outdoor game called "the Hunt" or "the Hounds", to prepare the young gentlemen for their future pastime of fox hunting. The two runners making the trail with paper were called "foxes", those chasing them were called "hounds".
Hare coursing rather than fox hunting was used as an analogy when the game spread to Bath School, so the trail-makers were called "hares".
This term was made popular by the paper chase scene in Tom Brown's School Days
"in this case the hare was a couple of boys who were called foxes". The Royal Shrewsbury School Hunt is the oldest cross-country club in the world, with written records going back to 1831 and evidence that it was established by 1819.
Three years after the 1857 publication of Tom Brown's, Schooldays, a Rugby novel had made an impact on running and other sports in America.
According to the Amherst College University Quarterly II, printed in July of 1860, William Blaikie, an athlete, and Harvard graduate of 1866, believed that the influence on American college sport by Thomas Hughes and Tom Brown's Schooldays, was "greater, perhaps, than that of any other Englishman."
At Andover Theological Seminary in Massachusetts, the imported Rugby game of “Hunt the Hare” or paper chasing, was the "rage" in 1860. But at Andover and other American colleges, interest in paper chasing was periodic at best until organized track meets spread in the 1870s.
November 1878, the first independent cross-
country club in America is formed, the Westchester Hare and Hounds at the New York Athletic Club in Mott Haven, New York.
The National Cross-Country Association is organized
in New York, with four clubs initially as members: the
Manhattan Athletic Club, the Olympic Athletic Club
(New York), the Prospect Harriers, and the Suburban
In the fall of 1890, In San Francisco, the Olympic Athletic Club pioneers’ cross-country meets on the West
Coast. Results were printed in Outing Magazine in 1890, The Olympic Athletic Club and the Alpine Athletic Club both held meets in Sausalito, with the Olympic A.C. having about 28 men run a 7-mile race to Lime Point, while the Alpine Athletic Club started in Sausalito and ran 3-miles out to Fog Station and back. Meets were also held by the Olympic Athletic Club more south on the peninsula in Millbrae and San Mateo, where trophies were issued to the top winners, as well as a leather medal for the final-place finisher.
In the fall of 1903, for preparatory schools, the first major high school invitational cross country meet in the country was the American Interscholastic, first conducted by the University of Pennsylvania in the fall of 1903. This was one of the first meets which brought together multiple prep schools and began a close association between colleges and high schools within the sport.
Beginning in 1907, Harvard, Yale and Princeton Universities would conduct a triangular cross-country meet with competition between the three schools.
July 15, 1912, marked the first appearance of Cross Country on the Summer Olympic program, and first international appearance by the U.S. National Cross-Country Team. The Games of the V Olympiad were held in Stockholm
By December 1938, U.S. high schools were developing the sport extensively. The Southern Section of California, Iowa, Ohio, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Connecticut all had formal state-level championships for boys.
November 24, 1964, Marie Mulder wins the first female National Cross-Country Championship contested in
America running over a 2-kilometer course in Seattle Washington, Mulder wins the title running 6:51. This race was significant, as it predated any attempt by the national congress or running bodies to offer distance running opportunities regardless of gender.
November 1966, The Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union officially sanctions a High School Cross Country State meet for girls, providing the first opportunity for high school girls in the U.S. to have state-level competition.
The 1960s were the beginning of cross-country for New Mexico High School students.
The New Mexico Activities Association’s website has results dating back to 1960, when the classifications were B, 1A and 2A.
Cross-country became a sanctioned high school sport for boys in 1960 and the state championship occurred in Albuquerque. The current standard of a 3.1-mile race had not been set, and races were closer to 2 miles in length during the 1960s.
Gerry Garcia an athlete and student at El Rito Normal School dominated the first five years of the 1960’s in Cross Country Meets, securing state titles in all of his five seasons (1961-1965) to join the all-time elites. Garcia steadily improved his official time in each of his first four years (11 minutes, 6 seconds in 1961, 10:57 in both 1962 and 1963, 9:32 in 1964). He also concluded his tenure at El Rito with title No. 5 in 1965 with a time of 9:41.
The El Rito Normal School boys won three straight team titles between 1961 and 1963. El Rito, served Spanish-speaking students in Rio Arriba County between 1909 and 1969. The school opened in 1909 with numerous obstacles. The then territorial government was not keen on providing schools for the Hispanic population of rural areas in the state. At the urgings of Venceslao Jaramillo, an El Rito resident and territorial legislator, and two other persons,
Mr. L. Bradford Prince, a former NM territorial governor, and Solomon Luna from Tierra Amarilla, another supporter for education for Hispanic students, The Normal opened its
doors in 1909 with an enrollment of 37 anxious students, dispelling the notion that Hispanics were not interested in
education and athletic accomplishments. During the early years of interscholastic Boys Cross Country, in New Mexico it proved to be a powerhouse. The High School closed in 1969 and the campus buildings were later merged into what became Northern New Mexico University.
Silver High Schools, Joe Espinosa, won three straight state championships in 1965, 1966 and 1967. Espinosa gradually improved his official time each of those three championship seasons, with a major advancement coming in 1967. Espinosa’s time in 1965 was 10:15, followed by a 10:06 performance in 1996 and a time of 8:50 in 1967.
The Silver boys won team titles in 1962, 1964 and 1965.
Highland High School opened and closed the decade strong when it comes to the Boys’ Cross-Country results, winning state titles in 1960 and securing a three-peat from 1967 to 1969. Lloyd Goff (1960 winner at 10:08) and Stan Hill (9:54 in 1966 winner at 9:54, 1967 winner at 8:56) both won individual state titles.
The 1970’s saw Cross Country expand in New Mexico High Schools, all while individual accolades during that era helped launch new teams into statewide prominence. The course distances were lengthened from the 1960s range.
The Laguna Acoma boys, after wrapping up the previous decade with its first team title back in 1969, Laguna Acoma hit its peak as a program in the 1970s — sweeping through that decade with another 10 consecutive state titles.
That record of 11 straight titles set in 1979 wasn’t snapped until 1994, when Gallup won its 12th team title.
Laguna Acoma had four runners take home individual state titles during the 70s, including Meldon Sanchez’s three-peat (1975-1977).
Shiprock’s Vinny Thomas and Kirtland Central’s Wilbur Nakai won individual state titles during the 1970s, helping launch one of New Mexico’s hotbeds for cross-country talent. Thomas won the 1974 3A boys title with an official time of 17 minutes, 24 seconds. Nakai won the 1977 3A boys title at 15:12.
It was the first major cross-country title
championship for each school, and the duo helped make San Juan County relevant in the sport.
Grants’ Andy Martinez won three straight 4A boys titles between 1973 and 1975. His three-peat also came during a time when Grants started catching up with Highland and Bernalillo, which were cross-country powerhouses during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Martinez helped set the standard for Grants to be included in the state title conversations, whether as a team or individually, during the '70s.
Los Alamos’ Anthony Sandoval opened the 1970s with state titles in 1970 and 1971. Sandoval's official time in 1970 was 9:41. His official time in 1971, which was when the course was lengthened, was 14:47.
According to a New Mexico Track and Cross-Country Coaches Association document, Sandoval went on to run at Stanford University, winning a Pacific 10 Conference title in 1976 in the 10,000-meter run.
Sandoval’s back-to-back titles also came on the heels of those of a fellow Hilltopper, Ric Rojas. Rojas won titles in 1968 and 1969 at 9:32 and 9:43, respectively.
Robert Golightly of Alamogordo to date is the only boy from Alamogordo to win a Cross Country State Title. He won the Class 4AAAA title in 1972 with a time of 15:23.
Girls’ cross country started coming to the forefront in New Mexico during the 1980s after becoming a state-sanctioned sport in 1979. For Alamogordo, the Girls & Boys team was coached by Coach Phil Brown as the Head Coach and Marilyn Sepulveda as the assistant. Coach Marilyn Sepulveda was focused primarily on the girls, as she was the Girls Head Track and Field Coach. The Coaches specialized with a group, but each reached over and assisted each other.
- The Alamogordo duo of Lisa Valle (18:22 in 1983) and Julia Kayitah (19:46 in 1990) were the first two southern New Mexico girl runners to win state Cross Country titles.
Tucumcari’s Michelle Montoya, Peñasco’s Elizabeth
Gonzales had big stretches of small-school dominance during the early 1980s. Montoya won three straight individual state titles between 1982 and 1984, while
Gonzales won four straight individual titles between 1982 and 1985. The duo were the first two female runners in New Mexico history to string together consecutive state titles in one given sequence. Montoya's times were 18 minutes, 32 seconds, 18:44 and 19:21, respectively.
Gonzales' times were 18:58, 19:09, 19:47 and 19:58, respectively.
Gallup’s, Verna Woody secured individual 4A titles in 1982 (17:52) and 1984 (18:32). That helped set the stage for Gallup to dominate the girls’ cross-country landscape alongside Los Alamos over the next two decades. Bloomfield’s Angie Lee won a pair of individual titles for the Bobcats in 1986 and 1987, and those accolades helped cross country explode in popularity and recognition in and around San Juan County. Lee's times were 19:57 and 19:26, respectively.
The Crownpoint girls and the Newcomb girls both teams won consecutive state titles by the late 1980s,
creating some parity during a time that was otherwise
dominated by Laguna Acoma. Laguna Acoma came off
seven straight team titles between 1979 and 1985. Crownpoint won two straight titles in 1986 and 1987, while Newcomb won state titles in 1988 and 1989 before securing a three-peat in 1990. Both teams, located in the Four Corners, also had a hand in growing girls’ cross country’s evolving presence.
The Gallup Boys Cross Country became the next dominant squad to emerge, winning the first seven of its of state record 12 consecutive titles during the 80s. During the second half of the decade, Gallup showcased its talented roster in the form of four different runners bringing home individual titles. That group included Virgil Thomas, who won back-to-back 4A state titles in 1986 and 1987. Thomas' times were 15:36 and 15:50, respectively.
Jemez Valley’s Victor Chinana briefly overthrew 70s power Laguna Acoma as the top small-school boys’ squad in the early 80s — ending a 13-year state title drought in 1980 — because it had a rising star in Chinana. Chinana won his second consecutive individual state title in 1980 (19:34), later securing a three-peat in 1981. Chinana's time in 1981
was 15:50. Chinana jump started Jemez Valley’s success as the decade went on. That soon led to Jemez Valley’s Benjamin Mora winning back-to-back individual state titles in 1984 and 1985, as well as Jemez Valley’s six team titles during the 1980s. Mora's times were 16:01 and 15:58, respectively.
The 1990s had a nice mix of continued growth and dominance across the Four Corners with interscholastic Cross Country, as well as first-time champions and the end of long title droughts.
San Juan County’s reputation for quality cross country talent kept evolving during the 90s. Aztec’s Amy Swier won four straight individual state titles between
1993 and 1996, while Bloomfield’s Stephanie Milam three-peated between 1990 and 1992. Newcomb’s Guila Irwin won individual state titles in 1995 and 1997. Swier’s times
were 19 minutes, 54 seconds, 19:43, 18:29 (according to Farmington Daily Times archives) and 20:13, respectively.
Milam’s times were 19:42, 18:46 and 19:07 respectively. Irwin’s times were 19:38 and 21:14, respectively. Swier went on to run for National Collegiate Athletic Association cross country powerhouse Northern Arizona University.
The Newcomb girls won team titles in 1990 and 1995, while the Farmington girls and the Bloomfield girls both won team titles in 1991.
Shiprock’s Lance Foster became the second Chieftain runner to bring home an individual state title back in 1993, ending a 19-year championship drought for any one Shiprock runner. Foster’s time was 16:16.
Las Cruces’ David Krummenacker became the first-ever Doña Ana County runner to win an individual state title when he won the 1992 4A state championship.
Krummenacker, whose time was 15:53, accomplished that feat during a time when Gallup established itself as a big-school cross country powerhouse. By 1992, Gallup won 10 of its 18 total state titles.
The Gallup boys between 1990 and 1999, picked up another six state championships. By 1994, which was Gallup’s second to last title during the 90s, the Bengals set a state record of 12 consecutive team titles. That feat remains unbroken today.
Alamogordo has never won a team state title in Boys or Girls Cross Country. Robert Golightly, Lisa Valle, and Julia Kayitah go down in the state archives as the only Alamogordo Cross County State Title Holders to date. But the future is bright as Alamogordo has always shown itself to be competitive in New Mexico Sports.
Coaches Bob & Marilyn Sepulveda with Coach Gary Hveem© The Sepulveda/Hveem Years Book 2: An Alamogordo Tiger Tale of 3 Coaches Building Pride thru Football, Track & Field and Cross Country during the 70s & 80s releasing Labor Day Weekend at Roadrunner Emporium, 928 New York Avenue, Alamogordo, New Mexico, September 4th, 2021 at 6 pm and available in 42 country that day on Amazon.com