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(Photo Courtesy Shelley Ebarb)

(Photo Courtesy Shelley Ebarb)

For young, inexperienced runners, the goal of the state cross country meet is simple: Get a taste of what a marathon against some of the top talent in the state is like, see how you can stack up, and come back next year stronger and wiser.

The Bulldog and Lady Bulldog cross country squads accomplished that aim last Saturday at the Class 5A meet in Rio Rancho, with the Artesia girls improving from 14th in 2015 to 11th and the boys from 13th to 12th.

“Average time this year (for the Lady ‘Dogs) was 22:35 compared to last year’s average time of 23:56,” head coach Shelley Ebarb said, adding that the difference between the first and fifth runners this season was 1:35 compared to 2:49 in 2015. “(The boys’) average time this year was 19:03 compared to last year’s average time of 18:39.”

With both teams – the Bulldogs in particular – having struggled at various points this season with injuries and other setbacks, the state performances were a positive end.

(Photo Courtesy Shelley Ebarb)

(Photo Courtesy Shelley Ebarb)

For the Bulldogs, Eliazar Granillo finished in the top 30 out of a field of 118 runners, taking 29th with a time of 17:39.95, and Julius Acosta came in 41st with a 17:58.85.

“They actually ran quite well this season considering we only had three varsity runners returning from last year,” said Ebarb. “We just had a bigger gap this year from our first-place finisher to our fifth-place finisher, but our number-one runner, Eliazar Granillo, had a higher finish than last year.”

Rounding things out for the ‘Dogs were Kale Mauritsen (72nd, 18:50.85), Isaac Lopez (106th, 20:04.35), Gabriel Montoya (109th, 20:43.30) and Caleb Carnathan (115th, 22:40.75).

In the girls’ race, Michaela Phipps and Madilynn Moon breached the top 50 for Artesia competing against a field of 112, with Phipps taking 37th (21:37.40) and Moon 48th (22:13.50). Katelynn Sullivan came in 67th for the Lady ‘Dogs (22:51.50), Kimberlee Bennett 73rd (23:02.25), Joslyn Madrid 77th (23:11.95), Lauren Robson 78th (23:13.60) and Lexi Montgomery 94th (24:35.10).

The good news for both teams is that they’ll have the bulk of their varsity rosters back in 2017. The Lady Bulldogs graduate just one senior in Robson, while the ‘Dogs lose two in Acosta and Montoya.

“The kids worked really hard this year, and we’re looking forward to even more improvement next year,” said Ebarb.