By Dave Kavanaugh
Las Vegas Optic
Long regarded as the prime rib of Meadow City sporting events, Vegas Bowl rarely has to share the plate with any other local happening when it rolls around on the calendar.
Not this time.
The weekend ahead is an all-you-can-watch buffet for local sports fans.
Like most great northern New Mexico feasts, this one starts with the familiar “Red or Green?” question. Vegas Bowl pits state-bound Robertson (7-2, 2-0) against crosstown rival West Las Vegas (2-7, 1-1) in the final game of the regular season. Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m. at Perkins Stadium.
Coach Leroy Gonzalez and his Cardinals are looking to clinch the District 2-3A title and lock up a top-three seed in the Class 3A state playoffs (to be revealed late Saturday, by the way). Coach Mike Ulibarri and his Dons will be trying to play spoiler and close the regular season by showing they are a much-improved team.
On Saturday morning, the Gene Torres Golf Course plays host to some of the finest runners in the country when the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference cross country championships returns to Las Vegas.
New Mexico Highlands is looking to qualify for regionals, with Moses Kirui and All-American Nicaise Kazingo leading the men, and Marvia Lewin and Ashley Lovato pacing the women.
Defending national champion men’s and women’s teams from Adams State, as well as perennial contender Western State will be the ones to beat in these races, which begin 10:30 Saturday morning, following a fun run open to the public.
It’s the second home cross country meet of the season for NMHU and longtime coach Bob DeVries. The NMHU XC Jam was held here on Oct. 23, ending a six-year span during which zero home meets were held.
On Saturday afternoon, two local sporting events of significance are on tap. The first is Highlands’ last home football game of the year, a contest with intrastate rival Western New Mexico kicking off at 3 at Perkins Stadium. The Cowboys, led by acting head coach Joe Morris, are looking for their second win of the season against the 3-6 Mustangs.
Then the focus turns to Gillie Lopez Gym, where the West Las Vegas Lady Dons host the District 2-3A volleyball tournament final. The Lady Dons and first-year mentor Jacquelyn Sanchez earned the regular-season title and No. 1 seed in the tourney and await the winner of a Thursday night semifinal between Raton and Robertson.
Saturday and Sunday, the new Young American Football League state tournament for northern New Mexico comes to town with games at the Herrera Complex and the Perk. Las Vegas’ own 49ers, who went 8-0 in the regular season, provide local flavor.
And that’s just the in-town menu.
At noon Friday in Durango, Colo., Highlands competes in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference women’s soccer tournament semifinal round. The Cowgirls, the No. 3 seed in the tourney, play second-seeded Regis for the right to move on to Sunday’s championship match with either top seed Fort Lewis or No. 4 seed Colorado School of Mines. Sunday’s final is set for a 1 p.m. kickoff in Durango. (See related story.)
On Saturday morning in Rio Rancho, athletes from Robertson, West Las Vegas, Mora and Pecos will be among those vying for state cross country championship glory. Robertson’s girls, a district championship group led by senior Kaitlyn Hutchinson, are hoping to crack the top three in Class 3A. West’s teams, which corralled a pair of district runner-up finishes, boast some veteran runners like Amanda Ortzow on the girls’ side and Jordan Lopez on the boys’ side. Pecos has championship hopes for the boys’ squad and its leader, Antonio Varela. After dual fourth-place finishes in a crowded district meet, Mora is happy to be in the dance and looking to stir it up.
The Highlands Vatos rugby club is “hosting” its own big event, albeit in Mountainair, rather than the Meadow City. The inaugural Mountainair Maul is invading that rural central New Mexico community for the weekend.
And the action of interest won’t be confined to the playing fields, courts and courses. On Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon, respectively, the New Mexico Activities Association will announce the selections and seedings for state football and volleyball tournaments. Those tourneys begin next week.