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The Class 5A State Cross Country Meet is, year in and year out, arguably the most competitive amongst all classifications.

With the perennial powers of Albuquerque Academy and Los Alamos always looming, the races generally become a battle between everyone else for third place on. And this year, Kirtland Central stepped up to take that spot away, as well.

But despite the fact it will always prove difficult for the rest of the state to compete against programs that train to the highest level year round, if there’s one thing Artesia is assured of, it’s that the Artesia High School runners will never be intimidated – and they’ll never give up.

The 2017 season was a rough one at times for the Bulldog and Lady Bulldog runners, particularly the former. The ‘Dogs did not field a varsity team for most of their meets this year due to injury and inexperience.

And while the Artesia girls struggled at times to maintain the closeness between runners needed to score well in the sport, their dedication and hard work saw them to a 10th-place overall showing Saturday in Rio Rancho.

Senior Michaela Phipps posted an impressive top-40 finish out of a field of 111 runners at the 5A meet, coming in 32nd with a time of 21:39.00. Classmate Joslyn Madrid was next across the line in 59th with a 23:06.85, followed by juniors Kimberlee Bennett (69th, 23:08.55) and Katelynn Sullivan (61st, 23:11.20), freshman Shelby Kramer (70th, 23:32.40), and senior Lexi Montgomery (89th, 24:51.30).

For the Bulldogs meanwhile, their senior leader Eliazar Granillo breached the top 60 out of 118 with a 59th-place time of 18:45.55. Behind him were senior Isaac Lopez (103rd, 20:39.60), sophomore Coy Moorhead (109th, 21:06.75), freshman Devon Harrison (115th, 22:03.10), freshman Julian Martinez (116th, 22:44.15), and senior Caleb Carnathan (118th, 23:25.55).

Sweeping the 5A state titles were Albuquerque Academy, while Los Alamos and KC finished second and third in the girls’ race, third and second in the boys’.

The AHS program will lose some key seniors to graduation in the spring in Phipps, Madrid, Montgomery, Granillo, Lopez and Carnathan, but the fact only three names apiece from each team will bid their farewells means one important thing: In 2018, youth will be served.

Artesia’s underclassmen received a wealth of valuable varsity experience this season, and as those freshmen and sophomores grow and improve, so will go the Bulldog and Lady Bulldog programs.