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(Photo Courtesy Shelley Ebarb)

Any team’s primary goal over the course of a season is to be peaking when it matters most. Friday at the District 4-AAAAA Meet in Lovington, the Bulldogs and Lady Bulldogs were right on time.

The Artesia girls finished second overall in the district behind Lovington, while the boys came in third behind the Wildcats and Goddard. The top-three placements qualify the teams for this week’s Class 5A State Meet in Rio Rancho.

“Coach Sandra Pulido-Smith, Coach Mike Nuanes and I could not believe how well these kids ran,” head coach Shelley Ebarb said Saturday. “You want your runners to peak at the right time, and that’s exactly what they did, every single one of them.

“This group of runners has been great this year, working together and growing as a team, as well as individuals.”

Leading the charge for the Lady Bulldogs Friday was senior Michaela Phipps in fifth place overall with a time of 19:52. Close behind her in the top 10 were Joslyn Madrid (eighth, 20:31) and Shelby Kramer (ninth, 20:34), while Kimberlee Bennett (12th, 21:02) and Katelynn Sullivan (13th, 21:10) rounded out the effort.

“Our girls did an amazing job!” said Ebarb. “The course was the same one they ran at the Lovington Invitational in August. Michaela ran over one minute faster than in August. Joslyn, Lexi, Kimberlee, Katelynn and Shelby each ran more than three minutes faster than they ran in August.

“The JV runners, all freshmen, each ran five to seven minutes faster. These girls could not have run any harder.”

Dania Juardo turned in a 23:03 to lead the Lady ‘Dog JV, followed by Estefani Rodriguez (23:27), Deimy Dominguez (25:03) and Cielo Sanchez (34:13).

For the Bulldog varsity, senior Eliazar Granillo powered his way to a fourth-place overall finish with a time of 16:38. Isaac Lopez came in 15th with a 17:48, Coy Moorhead 21st (18:43), Devon Harrison 23rd (19:17), Julian Martinez 24th (19:22), Caleb Carnathan 25th (20:06) and Emmet Clark 26th (20:52).

Paul Ontiveros ran a 21:53 for the Bulldog JV, and Martin Saenz posted a 22:55.

“Eliazar finished in fourth with a great time,” said Ebarb. “Isaac sat out the first half of the season with a sprained ankle but worked his way back to a 15th-place finish.

“Every one of these boys ran the course one to three minutes faster than they did in August.”

With a regular-season’s worth of hard work, overcoming obstacles, and steady improvement behind them, the AHS runners will now set their sights on state. The 5A girls race will begin at 10:35 a.m. Saturday, while the boys will be under the gun at 2 p.m.