Paul Anderson knows there is a future in which he is no longer a track and field coach.
But he can look to a mentor to see how soon that might be.
Anderson, the head coach at Los Alamos High School, is approaching retirement eligibility, which is 25 years of service for public school employees. He knows there will be a time when he and his wife, also a teacher at Los Alamos, will look to enjoy some time away from the school they have dedicated themselves to for so long.
Yet, he hasn't lost any of the desire to coach, especially at this school, and with these athletes.
When Anderson talks to his former high school coach when he ran track in Michigan, he gets the feeling that putting away his clipboard isn't as close as it might appear.
"He just turned 70, and is still coaching," Anderson says. "He's got his 50 years in. I talk to him all the time, and there is just that enthusiasm he brings all the time. You see that, and it's hard to think about giving it up."
Especially at Los Alamos, which will try to defend its three-time Class AAAA state championship beginning Friday at Great Friends of UNM Track Complex in Albuquerque.
While some might look at the three straight team titles the Lady Hilltoppers won and the hopes of making it four in a row and understand why, Anderson doesn't focus on the hardware.
"The groups we've have here recently are all inclusive and helpful," Anderson says. "They are friends around, so it's no burden to come out here and work hard. The rest of the stuff makes it fun."
Of course, it wouldn't be as much fun if not for the team's success. It starts with senior sprinter/thrower Chase Ealey, who will try to complete her domination in the 100 with a fourth-straight win in the event.
She is the top seed in that event, as well as the shot put and the javelin. Ealey also will be a member of the second-seeded 400 relay team.
Anderson will miss her effervescence around the track.
"To see Chase get giggly and nervous, makes it fun." Anderson says.
But the run won't end with her departure. Juniors Laura Wendelberger and Amy Neal have found their niches -- Wendelberger in the 300 hurdles (No. 2 seed); Neal in the 100 (5th) and several relays.
While Los Alamos chases another trophy, Santa Fe High is going after individual medals.
The expectations have changed for the Demons programs. Where state was once about soaking in the experience, the bar has been raised.
"I can see us coming back with a lot of medals and kids that are finishing where they should be," says Peter Graham, Santa Fe High head coach. "I can see where if things don't go so well, there will be a lot of unhappy campers."
The Demonettes are seeded eighth in the 400 and 800 relays, while the boys might bring home some state champions. Senior Josh Roybal is second in the 100 and the 200. The 400 relay is No. 2, while fellow senior Jeff Sward is third going into the pole vault.
"It's a tribute to them and their four years of hard work," Graham says of the upperclassmen. "The seniors spent two years in the five-A ranks and took their lumps. Now they are enjoying being a competitive part of four-A."
Joey Fernandez has the numbers at St. Michael's.
Bob Koski has his science kit at the ready at Pojoaque Valley.
The Horsemen can boast an entrant in just about every event in AAA, and a few who are among the favorites.
Start with senior Andres Gonzales, who is seeded first, second and second in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200, respectively.
The high jump could become a two-Horsemen showdown between Salomon Martinez and sophomore Isiah Dominguez, who are the top two seeds in the event.
Martinez is the third seed in the
300 hurdles and No. 5 in the 110 hurdles to boot.
Still, Fernandez knows to have a chance to take a team trophy home will come down to scoring as much as possible.
"The big thing is going to be those five, six and seven seeds placing in top three and four, and the relays as well," Fernandez says. "Those are points we need to compete for that trophy."
On the other end of the spectrum is Pojoaque. Eight boys and six girls will compete at state. Each and every one of them carry expectations of finishing in the top six -- if not win -- their respective events to compete with the rest.
What Koski is banking on is the success of his two best athletes, Amanda Babicke and C.J. Berryman, to perform at their peak.
Berryman is tops in the 100, 200 and 400. He can add a third in the long jump to boot. Babicke is second in the same running events (behind Sandia Prep's Krista Armstead in each of them) and No. 1 in the long jump.
That's just the tip of the iceberg.
"As a team we have qualified in 27 events," Koski says. "We have middle distance runners [on the boys side] -- two qualified in the 800, one in the 1,600 and one in the 3,200. Every single one of our girls qualified in a relay and in other events. We feel we are playing to our strengths."
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