Fort Sumner rolls to 3-1A titles

Melrose freshman Janea Eshleman leads the pack as she nears the finish line in the girls 200 meter heat during the District 3-1A track meet Saturday in Melrose. Eshleman finished first with a time of 27.41 seconds. (Staff photo: John Eisel)

By Dave Wagner

MELROSE — Fort Sumner’s track teams walked away with boys and girls Class 1A state team track titles a year ago, and they could be on the verge of a repeat.

The Foxes and Vixens spent Saturday trying to get events qualified for state and coasted to District 3-1A titles, the boys rolling up 184 points to 158 for Melrose while the girls piled up 192 points to 114 for Floyd in the five-school competition.

Meantime, Logan swept to team championships in the six-school District 4-1A meet.

“I’m ready for (state),” said Vixens senior Sandy Fortner, who was in on five winning events to edge Floyd senior Noel Carpenter (26-25 1/2) for high-point individual in the 3-1A meet. “We’re a lot stronger than we were last year. We had eighth-graders come up and help us today.

“Everything’s just falling into place.”

Fortner has qualified for next weekend’s 1A state meet in Albuquerque in 12 events and her father and coach, Brian Fortner, will have to decide how best to use her. The Vixens, who survived some injuries to hold off an unexpected challenge from Floyd last year at state, figure their toughest competition to come from Cimarron, and possibly Jal and Hagerman.

Floyd could also make noise behind Carpenter, although the Lady Broncos may not have the depth to win it all.

The Vixens will have at least one entry in everything next weekend except the 1,600. On Saturday, they brought six eighth-graders to the district meet, and Brian Fortner said all of them qualified for state.

“It’s great to bring 25 kids, and they all competed well,” Brian Fortner said. “Our depth will be the key. We just have to have everyone healthy.”

In the boys 3-1A meet, Fort Sumner’s depth was simply too much. After the Dickie Roybal-coached Melrose squad, the other three teams combined for just 81 points.

“It’s sad there aren’t more kids out (for track) in other schools,” Fort Sumner coach Dexter McDaniel said. “We really think track is definitely a program-builder. I know Dickie’s done a good job with his program here.

“The main thing today was to get some kids qualified. I think it’s going to be a real dogfight at state.”

Melrose has some talent, but Roybal said the Buffaloes probably lack the depth to contend for a title next weekend.

“We’re hoping to get in the top three (at state), but I don’t know,” said Roybal, whose team was fifth at state in 2004. “Jal and Fort Sumner are tough, and Hagerman will break up some of the points.”

Melrose junior Carlos Ruiz earned 3-1A boys top individual point honors with 25 1/2, winning long jump (19-7 3/4), the 100 (11.48) and the 200 (23.91). He also ran the second leg on the Buffs’ winning 400 relay and their runnerup 1,600 relay.

Ruiz, who has qualified in 10 events, also isn’t sure which ones he’ll be in at state. He’s continued to do well despite nursing a groin injury.

He also hasn’t given up on the idea of catching the Foxes.
“I think we’re going to do pretty good at state,” he said. “We’re going to try and go after Fort Sumner.

“Hopefully, I can get first place in triple jump and long jump for sure.”

Logan nearly doubled up second-place House in 4-1A boys competition, led by the meet’s high-point individual, senior Chase Kulback. He finished with 23 points, winning the 100 and 200 and taking second in discus.

Logan’s girls scored 129 points and won a closer battle with House (103) and Grady (102). House sophomore Sara Lee was the individual point champion with 31, posting victories in triple jump, long jump and pole vault.