Suppose it's only appropriate that in the resurrected Ignacio Cross-Country program's first race in nearly three decades, a freshman would be the first 'Cat to cross the finish line after three-plus miles of action.
So it went for young Avaleena Nanaeto at the Aug. 30 Aztec Invitational. She paced IHS' eager quartet at its first meet of 2018 with a 29-minute, 34-second effort which trailed only Mancos sophomore Grace Manning's 25:13 and AHS soph Sierra Villanueva's 25:17.
Villanueva had finished 48th overall at the 2017 NMAA Class 5A State Championships, while Manning took 17th overall - but fourth amongst freshman qualifiers - at the CHSAA Class 2A State Championships.
Also running for Ignacio, Junior Brianna Henderson (32:52) and sophomore Jayden Brunson (32:57) finished 16th and 17th, respectively, on the sun-beaten course while sophomore Vanessa Gonzales (33:11) came in 20th.
"I was proud of what I witnessed from each lady on not giving up and not surrendering to the hills and heat," said IHS head coach Marissa Duffey. "I look forward to watching them continue to grow within this sport and compete in their future races."
MHS sophomore Zoey Steele (30:12) and AHS soph DaShauntee Gonzales (30:18) rounded out the individual standings' top five, while only the hosting Tigers sent out enough runners to earn a team score-an adjusted 15.
In a score-4 format, however, IHS would have placed ahead of 5A Farmington and finished behind only Aztec (reclassified as 4A this season) due to Mancos entering just three runners, A/2A Shiprock (N.M.) Northwest three, 3A Farmington Navajo Prep three and 4A Bloomfield (N.M.) one.
"The ladies were mentally and physically prepared for a tough race," Duffey said. "They stepped onto the line with the motto of 'Together': Run as a pack and help one another compete in their first 5K."