With two early meets under their belts, the Bulldog and Lady Bulldog track teams have already begun to build a head of steam.
The Artesia boys topped the field at both outings March 3 at the Coyote Invitational in Roswell and at Friday’s Ralph Bowyer Relays in Carlsbad, and the Lady ‘Dogs followed a second-place finish in Roswell with a third-place showing Friday.
The squads also qualified individuals for the Class 5A State Meet at both competitions, with the boys’ tally now standing at four and the girls’ at two.
No one is ever expecting quick results when teams are still working to get their legs under them. But when they come along anyway, they’re a welcome surprise and a testament to the work ethic of this year’s track and field athletes.
“We had a really good meet, and I couldn’t be prouder of the way our athletes are competing early in the season,” head coach Rex Henderson said. “To see the number of qualifiers we have this early in the season is a credit to the work that they have put in as athletes at Artesia High School.”
Henderson says he was already impressed with his overall youthful team in the offseason, where a variety of underclassmen stepped up to fill the void in areas that aren’t senior-heavy this year and where members of the basketball programs had yet to come out and fill in the gaps.
“We don’t have as many seniors this year as we’ve usually had in the past, so we’ve been relying on some of the younger athletes,” Henderson said. “We were hoping a lot of our sophomores and juniors would do well, but I feel like they’re doing better than maybe we even anticipated this early.
“I think some of these athletes are more dedicated at a younger age than we’ve probably seen before, and we’re getting some good leadership out of some of our juniors. That’s not taking anything away from the seniors. But there’s just a handful of them compared to what we usually have and some who have just made it out for track, so we had to count on these younger athletes to be leaders and set the pace in workouts.”
Approximately 150 athletes are currently out for track, 100 from AHS and 50 more freshmen.
“We’ve got a good group of freshmen,” said Henderson. “They’re working pretty hard for us, they’ve bought into what we’re doing, they’re excited about track, and that’s good to see.
“If we continue to build on what we have right now, I think it’s going to be pretty exciting for the future of our program.”
The ‘Dogs had to kick into another gear at the Ralph Bowyer Relays to edge out Class 6A Hobbs for top honors by two-and-a-half points.
Artesia’s field specialists led the way with four state-qualifying performances. Justin Houghtaling took first in the javelin with a throw of 166’7” and Christian Lopez – who also qualified in the event March 3 in Roswell – finished second with a 155’7.5” toss. Marcus Bramwell won the shot put with a 46’.25” heave, and Emilio Garcia was the runner-up in the pole vault, clearing 12’3”.
The boys also saw first-place finishes on the track from Garcia, Codey Scott, Tyler Greenwood and Kameron Aguilar in the 400-meter relay (44.82), Kale Mauritsen in the 300-meter hurdles (42.44), and Scott in the 200-meter dash (23.41).
For the Lady Bulldogs, Tori Collins re-qualified in the shot put with a third-place throw of 34’1.25” and Victoria Acosta logged Artesia’s first qualification in a running event with a first-place time of 48.90 in the 300-meter hurdles.
Also earning first-place points were Lauren Robson in the 800-meter run (2:32.81), Raina Wesson in the 400-meter dash (1:03.31), Madilynn Moon in the 1600-meter run (6:00.85), and the 1600-meter relay team of Jailyn Ruiz, Wesson, Cameron Keese and Acosta (4:22.42).
The Lady Bulldogs missed Hobbs in second place by two points. Carlsbad’s girls won the meet.
In between the opening varsity meets, Artesia hosted the Bulldog Relays JV competition March 10 at Bulldog Bowl, with the Bulldogs finishing first and the Lady Bulldogs second out of fields of 10 teams, including five varsity squads.
The AHS varsity will next head to Lovington Friday for the Wildcat Relays, and Henderson says he hopes to see continued improvement from his athletes.
“As always in track, you just want to continue to get in shape and make progress at this point in the year,” said the coach. “Our field events started strong, but we still want to see improvement from them. And I feel like as far as running goes, we want to continue to see times drop as we get in shape.
“If that happens, we’ll see our goal of qualifications and setting ourselves up for district and state come into focus. I felt like we’ve seen a lot of good signs early, so we just want to build on that going forward.”