Montaño signs with Highlands

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Lady Cardinal track star praised for work ethic

By Dave Kavanaugh

With all the events she’s been competing in — and excelling in — over the last several years, Robertson’s Kristen Montaño has given her supporters plenty to watch during track and field meets.

Look for her to continue doing so next year — as a member of the New Mexico Highlands women’s track and field program.

Montaño on Tuesday morning signed a letter of intent to attend NMHU and continue her athletic career with head coach Bob DeVries’ nationally ranked Cowgirls. Family members, current and former coaches, school officials and her teammates and friends joined Montaño for the signing ceremony at Mike Marr Gym.

“This is a very proud moment for Kristen,” her father, Las Vegas Police Chief Christian Montaño, told those gathered. “I want to thank all her coaches, past and present.”

Several of those coaches were on hand. Current RHS track coaches Mike Maldonado and John Maldonado, track coach Benny Ortiz, and current and former girls’ soccer coaches Ian Williamson and Ray Parks offered their congratulations. Parents Christian and Karleen Montaño and younger sister Kaelee joined them and RHS principal Darlene Ulibarri and athletic director Juan Carlos Fulgenzi for a photo op.

“I wanted to (keep running),” Kristen Montaño said after the ceremony. She said the reality of it hasn’t quite sunken in. “I’m still focusing on state right now. But I just want to keep getting better and becoming a different athlete.”

She is undecided as to what academic field she’ll major in, but at least initially her plan is to run the 400-meter dash and other distances. There’s some discussion of her taking on longer runs like the 800. “I’d try it,” she said.

Montaño has qualified for state in several events as of this week -- the 100, 200, 400 and the long jump, as well as relays with her teammates. Her favorite, she says, is the 200, because it’s “not too long, not too short,” a sprinting event that allows for some pacing.
Mike Maldonado, who’s taken the helm of Lady Cardinal track and field, had plenty of praise for Montaño: “She’s a gem. I wish I had more like her. She works hard and never complains. She has a lot of God-given ability and she has a great work ethic.”

“Highlands has a good program,” he continued, “and I’ll get to see her run, so it’s a good thing. I hope she helps get other kids in (college programs) somewhere.”

“I’m very proud of my daughter,” said Christian Montaño. “It’s very exciting for her, and I’m very excited to see her run for NMHU, which has a very prestigious girls’ track team.”

He said that in addition to her usual practices with the team, his daughter often gets up at 4:30 a.m. for additional workouts with him.

“I’ve always told her hard work pays off,” he said.

Kristen’s advice for youngsters? “Follow your dreams,” she said.