Fort Sumner sweeps 1A track titles

Junior Tobea Patterson helped Fort Sumner’s girls finish third in the Class 1A state medley relay. Photo by Andrew Chavez


ALBUQUERQUE — Consensus can be a hard thing to come by in a small town melting pot like Fort Sumner. Unless you’re talking about the town’s youth.

Then everyone’s on the same page.

The young men and women in the DeBaca County community best known as the place where Billy The Kid was shot to death by Lincoln County Sheriff Pat Garrett on July 14, 1881, have over the last decade been busy forming a new reputation.

Title Town.

Since 1995, Fort Sumner High School has won 20 state championships in a variety of sports. The Foxes added their latest two titles Saturday to their already crowded trophy case by sweeping the track and field titles in Class 1A.

The Fort Sumner boys captured their 14th team title and again did it in runaway fashion. The Foxes rolled up 125 points. Second place Mountainair was 77 points behind Fort Sumner, with Desert Academy third with 43 points.

Fort Sumner’s girls made it much more interesting. They edged Floyd by three points — 52 to 49 — to win the team title. Roy and Carrizozo tied for third with 43 points.

Carrizozo, which had won three straight girls titles, again got a sterling performance from senior sprinter Ariel Burr, who finished with four more individual titles and a career total of 18.

Fort Sumner is mainly a ranching and farming community with a good cross section of ethnic groups and religions. But the rallying point for everyone, says Fort Sumner boys track coach Mario Martinez, are the kids.

“Entire community support,” says Martinez of what’s behind the Foxes’ amazing run of sports supremacy in small school sports in New Mexico.

“It takes everybody,” he said. “Fort Sumner is actually a very religious community. Many different churches, many different denominations. But when it comes to kids, regardless of ethnic background or religion they all come together.”

Fort Sumner’s individual champions Saturday included Gerid Higgins, who won the 400 and 200 meter races; Patrick Reagan in the 1,600, Derek Dimitroff in the javelin and Jeremy Gauna in the 110 hurdles. Tim Segura ran second in the 110 hurdles and was second in the 300 hurdles behind Mountainair’s Jose Nunez.

The Foxes, who for the second year in a row scored over 100 points, won the 800 and 1,600 relays and were second in the medley. On Friday, Roel Canales won the 800 and the long jump while Higgins took first in the high jump and Reagan won the grueling 3,200 meter race.

Burr, who is headed to the University of New Mexico on a track scholarship, won the 100, 200, 400 and triple jump. A fixture atop the winner’s podium since she was an eighth grader, Burr is looking forward to running in college, but knows the competition will get tougher.

“It’s going to be so much different,” said the 5-foot-4 speedster who has not lost a race since she was in eighth grade. “But I’m ready for it.”

Burr’s mom, Judy Burr, died of breast cancer when Ariel was in the seventh grade. After her mom’s death, Burr moved from El Paso to Carrizozo to live with her aunt Susan Hightower. The loss of her mom, says Burr, helped make her the competitor she has become.

“When I run, I realize there’s so much more pain I could be going through,” said Burr. “It really helped me mature. It’s been hard, but it’s also made me a stronger person.”

Burr’s winning numbers in her farewell high school meet included a time of 12.26 in the 100; 58.58.2 in the 400; 37-feet, 10 and a half inches in the triple jump and 25.87 seconds in the 200.

Fort Sumner junior Sandy Fortner won the 300 hurdles and finished second behind Burr in the 200 and in the triple jump. Last year, Fortner and her twin sister Kelly were members of the state champ Tucumcari girls team. The two transferred to Fort Sumner this year. Kelly Fortner suffered a knee injury during basketball season and did not compete in track.