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(Brienne Green – Daily Press)

It’s a safe bet none of the teams vying for the podium in the Class 5A State Track and Field Meet had the Artesia Bulldogs on their radar. And that turned out to be a costly mistake.

For the most part, the ‘Dogs collected their points quietly. They made the most noise in the hurdling events, where senior Chase Thompson notched the program’s lone state championship with a time of 15.47 in the 110 race.

Class 5A state 110-meter hurdles champion Chase Thompson poses with his medals and the team trophy. (Brienne Green – Daily Press)

Right behind him was classmate Chandler Youtsey, runner-up with a 15.65. Youtsey also finished third in the 300 hurdles with a season-best 40.08 behind second-place Kale Mauritsen, 39.93, also a season best.

But still, no one seemed to see Artesia coming — that is until the final race of the day.

Heading into the 1600-meter relay, the Bulldogs needed to place in front of Alamogordo and the 5A runner-up trophy would be theirs. The order was a tall one, as the Tigers leapt out to a quick lead in the race. And after Artesia fell slightly behind, Alamo very nearly didn’t see the ‘Dogs’ anchor leg, Joe Willingham, coming, either.

The junior flew around the first two turns like a house on fire, coming just a few body lengths away from his Tiger target. But a few other kicks would prove too powerful in the end, as the Bulldogs dropped to fourth in the event, third overall on the day.

That green trophy, however, was no consolation prize. The ‘Dogs haven’t collected hardware at state since 2011 when the squad took the blue.

“(Alamogordo) put together a strong relay and finished it out, but I couldn’t be more proud of our boys and the way they battled with them,” head coach Matt Conn said following the meet. “We came up a little bit short, but we still brought home a trophy to Artesia, so that was exciting.”

Artesia’s hurdlers were a highlight of the meet, collecting a title, two runner-up placements, and a third, racing closely as they have all season to beat out all comers but Alamogordo’s Alex Alton in the 300 event.

Chandler Youtsey, left, and Kale Mauritsen simultaneously clear their hurdles during the boys’ 300 meters. (Brienne Green – Daily Press)

“It’s pretty awesome, pretty amazing,” Thompson said of his 110 state title. “I’ve dreamed about it, because I’ve had a hard few years. So just being able to come back after injuries and do it, it’s pretty nice.”

Thompson said crossing the finish line and realizing he’d led the pack was a “great way” to cap his senior year.

“I wouldn’t have asked for anything more,” he said. “It felt like the most amazing thing that’s ever happened. There’s just nothing else I could’ve wished for.”

“They were definitely exciting to watch coming across the finish lines,” Conn said of his hurdlers.

Above and beyond was the phrase of the day for the boys in orange, who logged season-best marks and bettered their state seedings all over the complex.

“These boys came in in fifth place and went out in third, so they over-performed through and through,” said Conn. “We had a few injuries on Day Two that cost us some points, but it’s just the way it rolls, and those boys fought their hearts out to stay in sight of that second place.”

Mauritsen posted another third-place finish for Artesia in the long jump with a 21’6”, as did the 400-meter relay team of Tyler Greenwood, Kameron Aguilar, Youtsey and Codey Scott (43.48), and the Bulldogs got fourth-place points from Erik Cueto in the high jump (6’), Marcus Bramwell in the shot put (47’7.25”), Denver Williams in the javelin (163’9”), and the 1600 team of Youtsey, Thompson, Aguilar and Willingham (3:27.41).

Elliot Harrison keeps her eyes on the next hurdle during the girls’ 300-meter event. (Brienne Green – Daily Press)

Also placing in the points for Artesia in fifth were Mauritsen in the pole vault (12’6”), Bramwell in the discus (136’3”), Greenwood in the 200-meter dash (23.00), and Willingham in the 400 dash (50.45).

“We were super excited about the kids who weren’t seeded in the points getting points,” said Conn. “They kept us within shooting range of that second. I mean, we had some kids that were seeded eighth and came in fifth, and all across the board, in the 400, the 200, and lots of other places, we just well over-performed.”

The Lady Bulldogs took an overall small contingent to the state meet this season. They placed 12th as a team but had solid performances individually.

The Artesia girls got a pair of fourth-place finishes from Honesty Segura in the javelin (109’1”) and Elliot Harrison in the 300 hurdles (48.55), two fifths from Harrison in the 100 hurdles (16.28) and Paityn Houghtaling in the javelin (108’), and a sixth from Lauren Robson in the 800-meter run (2:25.09).

Finishing seventh were Madilynn Moon in the pole vault (8’6”), Harrison in the high jump (5’), and the 400-meter relay team of Ariah Salazar, Presley Skinner, Camerin Molina and Harrison (52.07), the medley relay group of Salazar, Molina, Raina Wesson and Robson, and the 1600 relay team of Moon, Molina, Harrison and Wesson were both eighth (4:35.64 and 4:20.15 respectively), and Shaylee Fuller came in 10th in the javelin with a 99’6” throw.

“The girls had a solid outing,” said Conn. “They put together some strong performances and got on the podium several times. I’m super proud of these young ladies and the way they came up here and represented Artesia.”

Joe Willingham passes the bulk of the field going around the second turn during the boys’ 1600-meter relay. (Brienne Green – Daily Press)

In other boys’ finals Friday and Saturday, the ‘Dogs had seventh-place showings from Willingham in the triple jump (41’9”) and the 800 relay team of Greenwood, Mauritsen, Aguilar and Scott (1:39.54); an eighth from Williams in the pole vault (12’); ninth placements from Alan Cosio in the triple jump (41’1.25”) and Andrew Veloz in the discus (122’11”); 11th-place races from Julius Acosta in the 800 run (2:04.97) and Eliazar Granillo in both the 1600 and 3200 runs (4:50.20 and 10:37.06 respectively); and a 12th from Isaac Lopez in the 800 run (2:05.51).

The Bulldogs will lose some key seniors to graduation this year but will return a solid and talented core in 2018, while the Lady Bulldogs will return the bulk of their roster next season. And as always, the number of underclassmen that competed this weekend in Albuquerque will give the track and field program a healthy dose of experience and desire in the future.

“I’m sad to see (the seniors) go, but I loved how they performed,” said Conn. “They stepped out and did what we needed to come away with a trophy, and I couldn’t be more proud of all of our kids.