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La Cueva's Bernal named Gatorade NM Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year

Press Release Jan 9, 2015









La Cueva's Bernal selected as Gatorade NM Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year.


CHICAGO (January 8, 2015) In its 30th year of honoring the nation’s best high school athletes, The Gatorade Company, in collaboration with USA TODAY High School Sports, today announced Natasha Bernal of La Cueva High School as its 2014-15 Gatorade New Mexico Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year. Bernal is the first Gatorade New Mexico Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year to be chosen from La Cueva High School.

The award, which recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the racecourse, distinguishes Bernal as New Mexico’s best high school girls cross country runner. Now a finalist for the prestigious Gatorade National Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year award to be announced in January, Bernal joins an elite alumni association of past state award-winners in 12 sports, including Ryan Hall (1999-00, 2000-01, Big Bear HS, Calif.), Derek Jeter (1991-92, Kalamazoo HS, Mich.), Candace Parker (2001-02, Naperville Central HS, Ill.), Abby Wambach (1997-98, Our Lady of Mercy, N.Y.) and Mark Sanchez (2004-05, Mission Viejo HS, Calif.).

The 5 foot 4 senior raced to the Class 6A individual state championship this past season with a time of 18:50.85, leading the Bears to the state title as a team. Bernal also won the Metro Championships, the Albuquerque Academy Invitational, the Cleveland Invitational, the Rio Rancho Jamboree, the La Cueva Invitational and the Lobo Invitational in 2014. She finished 12th at the Nike Cross Nationals Southwest Regional championships in 17:46.

Bernal has maintained a 3.46 GPA in the classroom. She has volunteered locally on behalf of the La Cueva PTA Community Block Party for elementary and middle school students.

“Natasha’s success is notable because it’s her first season as a cross country runner,” said La Cueva coach Nicholas Martinez. “She has a wonderful work ethic and a humble attitude. She’s become the greatest cross country athlete that I’ve ever coached.”

Bernal has signed a National Letter of Intent to compete in cross country and track and field on scholarship at the University of New Mexico this fall.

The Gatorade Player of the Year program annually recognizes one winner in the District of Columbia and each of the 50 states that sanction high school football, girls volleyball, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls basketball, boys and girls soccer, baseball, softball, and boys and girls track & field, and awards one National Player of the Year in each sport. The selection process is administered by the Gatorade high school sports leadership team in partnership with USA TODAY High School Sports, which work with top sport-specific experts and a media advisory board of accomplished, veteran prep sports journalists to determine the state winners in each sport.

Bernal joins Gatorade New Mexico Girls Cross Country Runners of the Year Kelli Reagan (2013-14, St. Pius X High School), Malia Gonzales (2012-13, Sue Cleveland High School), Jenna Thurman (2011-12, Del Norte High School), Julia Foster (2010-11 & 2009-10, Albuquerque Academy), Clara Milne (2008-09, Albuquerque Academy), and Rachel Velarde (2007-08, Eldorado) as athletes who have won the cross country award since its inception in 2007.

To keep up to date on the latest happenings, become a fan of Gatorade Player of the Year on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. For more on the Gatorade Player of the Year program, including nomination information, a complete list of past winners and the announcement of the Gatorade National Player of the Year, visit


Contenders, Pretenders and Defenders

By Nick Martinez / November 13, 2014 1:08 PM



La Cueva's Natasha Bernal and Mason Swanson led their Bear teammates to a Championship repeat. Photo by Holly Patterson.

The Girls 6A Championship served up a premier battle of Rio Rancho, New Mexico’s consensus #1 team, versus the defending champions of La Cueva. Rio Rancho enjoyed a string a big meet victories at Lobo, Cleveland, Metro, and Jamboree, but the La Cueva Bears improved ever so slightly at the #4 position in late October, and meant to make their final stand at the State Championships. Albuquerque’s best metro schools also vied for a podium finish, with strong teams assembled form Volcano Vista, Eldorado, and Cibola entering the fray. Also unbeaten, La Cueva’s Natasha Bernal entered the meet with a perfect resume in her lone XC Season, and meant to make one final triumph to lead her team to a championship sweep.


The potpourri of uniforms as the 6A girls approached the first mile already show it was a two team race. Photo by Holly Patterson.

As the gun sounded, Bernal was quickly joined by teammate Mason Swanson, intent to make her mark on the assembled field. Early on, Rio Rancho’s Andi Almodovar and Molly Klein raced up front, with La Cueva’s Mackenzie Everett reminding them of the firepower La Cueva intended on maximizing. After the first major hill and entering the grass fields, Cleveland’s Amanda Mayoral and Onate’s Meghan Aguilera moved close to contend, but La Cueva’s was playing for keeps. Volcano Vista’s Hawks grouped together and made a strong push for podium finishes, led by the sterling front running effort from Rebecca Castillo. Rio Rancho made one final push before the 2 mile mark, as Coach Sal Gonzales cheered them on and demanded their very best.


La Cueva's Bernal easing away from the field. Photo by Holly Patterson.

As the runners flew around the grass fields, Bernal finally separated from the field and provided another reminder that the Bears defend best when stakes are highest. Rio Rancho’s string of victories was snapped with the large gap from their fourth to fifth runner, as La Cueva beat Rio Rancho at every position except the fourth spot. On this day, La Cueva’s Abigail Napier and Noelle Hendrickson applied the pressure from the fifth & sixth positions, and they finished ahead of Rio Rancho’s fifth scoring runner. Their final push locked up the team title, and proved that depth decides team supremacy.


Natasha Bernal roughly 200m from capping off her undefeated fall. Photo by Holly Patterson.

Up front, Natasha Bernal capped an undefeated season in emphatic fashion, breaking the blue ribbon with a time of 18:50. Bears teammates joined her top ten finish with spirited performances from Mason Swanson in 3rd, joined by Mackenzie Everett in 6th place. Bernal’s individual championship capped an undefeated season, joining the ranks of perfect seasons that only the best can muster. It was wonderful reminder that champions are only built with meticulous hard work, alongside dedicated teammates and supportive coaches. The La Cueva Bears ran away with the team title, outpacing runner-up Rio Rancho by 19 points, and defended their championship with decisive precision.


The La Cueva trio of (left to right) Mackenzie Everett, Natasha Bernal, and Mason Swanson embrace after the race. Photo by Sylvia Chavez.

Victory is an ode to preparation, because fast and flashy stands upon the shoulders of slow and steady. The early summer mornings, spent running & building fitness, repetition repeating the sound planning and unavoidable pathway trailblazed by singular talents years before. If you're ever lucky to see a special race, a dominating season, or a championship triumph, please know that many deliberate building blocks were placed days, months, and seasons ago. It's a procession of dreams dared and running soles bared. And maybe sometimes, it all clicks together to make plans whole.


The La Cueva Girls Team celebrating with their fans post race. Photo by Sylvia Chavez.

If you've cheered this season, thank you for acknowledging teams and individuals that have steadied their aim and exceeded wild expectations, and hopefully encouraged the next group to brave their limits and stretch towards bigger and faster goals. Just the way it should be. Cheers to the Bears, battle tested, champion approved.


The La Cueva Bears, the 2014 Girls 6A Cross Country State Champions. Photo by Sylvia Chavez.

Three ways of seeing 6A girls cross country, 2014

By Alan Versaw / New Mexico Cross Country Previews 2014 Series / August 2, 2014 8:47 PM

La Cueva has a roster long on girls who quietly get things done. Noelle Hendrickson is one of the faces in that crowd. Photo by Alan Versaw.

The turn of 6A girls has arrived. Although the classification nomenclature has changed, you'll remember this as the group dominated by Eldorado right up until the state meet. Then, on November 9, the tables turned and La Cueva went away as the state champions. While it's hard to say in August what this year will end up like, we can certainly pick out the teams that, on paper, have the best chances to be there in November. 

We'll start with the analysis by returning cross country runners from 2013:

1Rio Rancho High School (NM)70

 1) Molly Klein 18:11.001

 2) Sierra Delaware 19:34.109

 3) Alliana Atencio 19:47.6014

 4) Joanna Fernandez 19:50.0017

 5) Brianna Pribble 20:24.8829

 Average Time: 19:33.52 Total Time: 1:37:47.58 1-5 Split: 2:13.88

 6) Megan Agena 20:29.9233

 7) Ashley Gabaldon 21:03.3043

2La Cueva High School (NM)74

 1) Mackenzie Everett 19:16.205

 2) Abigail Napier 19:19.256

 3) Elizabeth Weeks 19:40.7510

 4) Noelle Hendrickson 20:19.0525

 5) Lindsay DeGolyer 20:22.1228

 Average Time: 19:47.47 Total Time: 1:38:57.37 1-5 Split: 1:05.92

 6) Kirsten Fotieo 20:24.9730

 7) Mason Swanson 20:38.0438

3Volcano Vista High School (NM)99

 1) Rebecca Castillo 19:15.874

 2) Sierra Maple 19:41.9011

 3) Sierra Quinones 19:44.0012

 4) Gabriela Pineda-Dominguez 20:18.2524

 5) Natalie Gayoso 21:14.2748

 Average Time: 20:02.86 Total Time: 1:40:14.29 1-5 Split: 1:58.40

 6) Elena Sanchez 22:58.7883

 7) Sydnie Steffenson 24:48.8994

4Alamogordo High School (NM)132

 1) Katrina Quigley 19:10.173

 2) Caylin Montoya 19:28.397

 3) Emily Croft 20:19.9526

 4) Kyla Fugate 21:10.2545

 5) Burke Schramel 21:22.7151

 Average Time: 20:18.29 Total Time: 1:41:31.47 1-5 Split: 2:12.54

 6) Angelique Carrillo 22:31.8478

 7) Brianna Norwood 24:25.1190

5Sue Cleveland High School (NM)149

 1) Brittney Lovato 19:29.248

 2) Nicolette Pacheco 20:02.5121

 3) Amanda Mayoral 20:20.1027

 4) Rebecca Lovato 21:10.5946

 5) Dominique Hills 21:12.7147

 Average Time: 20:27.03 Total Time: 1:42:15.15 1-5 Split: 1:43.47

 6) Haylie Schmidt 21:30.8854

 7) Samantha Counasse 22:02.3069


A somewhat different view is provided by looking at the 3200 times for returning runners from this spring and scoring those as a cross country meet. We modify the scoring to three runners per team to get a broader picture of teams in the analysis:

1La Cueva High School (NM)14

 1) Mackenzie Everett 11:07.701

 2) Natasha Bernal 11:25.132

 3) Abigail Napier 12:18.3411

 Average Time: 11:37.06 Total Time: 34:51.17 1-3 Split: 1:10.64

 4) Libby Weeks 12:46.2416

 5) Noelle Hendrickson 12:52.9417

 6) Kimberly Miller 13:12.5423

2Eldorado High School (NM)25

 1) Jessie Hix 11:37.013

 2) Melia Macias 12:06.629

 3) Samantha Dicker 12:22.4313

 Average Time: 12:02.02 Total Time: 36:06.06 1-3 Split: 45.42

3Cibola High School (NM)38

 1) Hope Johnson 12:04.226

 2) Nichole Gomez 12:05.017

 3) Karlene Calabza 13:13.3825

 Average Time: 12:27.54 Total Time: 37:22.61 1-3 Split: 1:09.16

 4) Mikayla Sena 13:29.5829

 5) Kayala Noriega 14:52.8944

4Clovis High School (NM)52

 1) Samantha Meza 12:12.7110

 2) Holly Steinle 12:59.3720

 3) Mya Borwick 13:11.0022

 Average Time: 12:47.69 Total Time: 38:23.08 1-3 Split: 58.29

 4) Silvia Velasquez 13:57.7834

 5) Emily Gonzales 14:06.0236

 6) Eva Marin 14:26.1539

 7) Dani Rodriguez 14:27.2240

5Rio Rancho High School (NM)55

 1) Molly Klein 11:41.364

 2) Joanna Fernandez 13:01.4321

 3) Megan Agena 13:37.1330

 Average Time: 12:46.64 Total Time: 38:19.92 1-3 Split: 1:55.77

 4) Cameren Ly 13:45.5531

 5) Charlene Juanico 14:03.7135


And, with our 1600 analysis, we can once again extend the picture to four scorers per team as a few more girls ran 16s this spring than those who ran 32s:

1La Cueva High School (NM)28

 1) Mackenzie Everett 5:05.281

 2) Natasha Bernal 5:18.293

 3) Noelle Hendrickson 5:38.9711

 4) Abigail Napier 5:41.1613

 Average Time: 5:25.93 Total Time: 21:43.70 1-4 Split: 35.88

 5) Jaime Fenton 5:56.3528

 6) Libby Weeks 6:13.5740

 7) Kimberly Miller 6:27.4449

2Rio Rancho High School (NM)45

 1) Molly Klein 5:07.572

 2) Sierra Delaware 5:38.5510

 3) Alliana Atencio 5:43.1016

 4) Brianna Pribble 5:43.8717

 Average Time: 5:33.27 Total Time: 22:13.09 1-4 Split: 36.30

 5) Joanna Fernandez 5:50.9325

 6) Cameren Ly 5:59.4129

 7) Megan Agena 5:59.7532

3Volcano Vista High School (NM)78

 1) Rebecca Castillo 5:23.715

 2) Gabriela Pineda-Dominguez 5:42.9314

 3) Sierra Quinones 5:51.0626

 4) Natalie Gayoso 6:00.5733

 Average Time: 5:44.57 Total Time: 22:58.27 1-4 Split: 36.86

4Onate High School (NM)80

 1) Meghan Aguilera 5:29.156

 2) Amerhyst Aguirre 5:31.357

 3) Renee Baldwin 5:46.6820

 4) Emma Bilvado 6:26.2247

 Average Time: 5:48.35 Total Time: 23:13.40 1-4 Split: 57.07

 5) Maria Wright 7:15.8954

5Sue Cleveland High School (NM)80

 1) Nicolette Pacheco 5:20.574

 2) Brittney Lovato 5:44.2518

 3) Amanda Mayoral 5:46.6519

 4) Samantha Counasse 6:10.1739

 Average Time: 5:45.41 Total Time: 23:01.64 1-4 Split: 49.60


There are some mixed messages in the three analyses above, but one of those mixed messages isn't the one about La Cueva. The Bears take first or second in all three and return a disturbingly large set of competitive runners. If it's not Napier, it's Weeks. If not Weeks, then Hendrickson. If not Hendrickson, then Bernal. If not Bernal, then Everett. And so it goes. There are not many New Mexico schools that can rival either the talent or the depth here. And, if that's not disturbing enough, track season would seem to be hinting that the wheels are back on Mason Swanson's wagon.

Rio Rancho holds a first in the cross country analysis, and second in the 1600 analysis, but was just a little on the side of soft in the 3200 analysis. It's evident enough that RR likes to go shorter during track season. Still, anyone taking Rio Rancho lightly is in for a rude awakening. And, it likely won't be a long time coming, either. Molly Klein returns the top 5K time in the state from 2013, while Sierra Delaware and Alliana Atencio chip in sub-20 times of their own. On top of that, I believe I've heard rumors about more young runners coming into the Rio Rancho camp.

Eldorado is deep in tradition but a little short on depth entering the fall, 2014, season. Eldorado will need to develop quickly at scoring positions 4 and 5 if they mean to be in this fall's title hunt. Being short on depth is something of a new problem for the Eagles.

Although Volcano Vista doesn't show up in the 3200 analysis, their 2013 cross country season was such that nobody will be prematurely writing off the Hawks. And, recent history suggests that VV is perhaps a little better of a cross country team than a track distance program. There's nothing wrong with that, but it does mean you start each new cross country season with a little bit of lost ground to make up.

Cleveland and Onate are likely the next best teams in the mix, but the Storm and the Knights will have to step things up from a track season that saw only three returning girls per school run below six minutes for the 1600. Cross country is a contest of depth, and both of these schools will be looking to bring more of it on board for this fall.