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Shelby Kramer (Courtesy Photo)

In the world of cross country, there exists no true measuring stick.

While all sports environments can be varying degrees of hostile, other athletes at least have the luxury of knowing they’ll be competing on the same kind of surface every week. In cross country, every course is drastically different, making every competition essentially a surprise waiting to happen.

“You never know what you’re going to get,” first-year Artesia head coach Sandra Pulido said Saturday. “The times are different on every course every weekend. It’s never going to be the same, because you’re basically adding a different obstacle every time.

“In our first meet, the kids came out hard and fast. The boys were at five-, six-minute miles and the girls around seven. Then the second miles would have two- to three-minute differences. Now, if we’re at 6:40 the first mile, we’re at 6:50, 6:55 the next, and that alone shows the progress they’ve made with their training, learning how to make it work for them rather than against them.”

The Lady Bulldogs and Bulldogs took another step in the right direction Saturday at the Coach Mo and Marquise’ Weast Memorial Meet at Jaycee Park, with the Artesia girls topping the varsity field and the boys coming in third out of seven teams.

Kale Mauritsen (Courtesy Photo)

“These kids have come a long way from where they were in the beginning,” said Pulido. “We had quite a few that were not just new to the program but new to running overall. But they’ve bought in to what we’re trying to do and the changes that we’ve made.

“We still have our ups and downs. You’re going to get that with any program, especially when you have new coaches, but the progress they’ve made is huge. When you go from ‘I’ve never run before’ to being able to handle running 10 miles at a decent pace, that’s big. Sometimes their times don’t reflect that, but they’re doing really well.”

The Lady ‘Dogs were led in their meet-winning effort Saturday by sophomore Shelby Kramer in second out of a field of 24 with an overall with a time of 22:19. Close behind was senior Kimberlee Bennett (fifth, 24:01), followed by sophomores Tayler Henry (seventh, 24:22) and Maria Reyes (11th, 25:28), and freshman Carley Simer (19th, 29:27).

“These girls have been working hard, and they’re staying closer together,” Pulido said. “They’ve been able to close that gap between each other. The times today don’t reflect their

Kimberlee Bennett (Courtesy Photo)

ability, but at the same time, we’re still very proud of what they gave us and how they finished.

“Their finishes have been great. Shelby Kramer has been kicking butt in training; they all have. They show up at 5:45 every morning, ready to go, and you can see how much stronger they’ve gotten this season. This was Maria’s first varsity race, so that showed a lot of nerve. They all ran well.”

On the boys’ side, junior Derek Pacheco was first across the finish line for the Bulldogs, second overall, with a time of 17:46. Senior Kale Mauritsen also breached the top 10 with an eighth-place time of 18:51.

Rounding out the ‘Dogs’ race were junior O’Brien Verdin (16th, 19:32) and sophomores Julian Martinez (17th, 19:34) and Devon Harrison (19th, 20:03).

“We’re still figuring out what works for this group,” Pulido said. “Too many recovery days doesn’t seem to do the job for them. They were tired today, but they ran well, and we’re proud of the times that they put out.

“Our course is a little longer than most. It’s 3.1, like a true 5K, and we have those hills in the back, so it’s harder than people are expecting. But I was proud of the guys’ effort and their times. We’re getting better with working together as a team – you can see that with the 16-17-19 finish. If we can keep them together but move them up in placing, they’re going to be a force to be reckoned with.”

The AHS runners will now prepare to head to Roswell Saturday for the Roswell-Goddard Invitational with three more meets separating them from the district event Nov. 3, which Artesia will host.

Devon Harrison (Courtesy Photo)

“We have a good chance for state with both groups,” said Pulido. “Like we’ve been telling them, these meets are practice. What it really comes down to is district and how well we perform there.

“Today was a trial run for it, because we had four of our seven district teams at our meet. We can definitely improve as a whole with both the boys’ and girls’ teams, but we have four weeks to prepare, and that’s what we’re going to spend the rest of the season doing.”