A year — or so — in review
Admittedly I wasn’t sure what to expect when I took the job writing for the Chieftain here in Socorro.
The only familiarity I had with this city came from an unpleasant experience, at least in the eye of the beholder (me), when I came here in my high school days as a member of the St. Pius X football team. I departed that snowy evening on the wrong end of an absolute beat down at the hands of the Warriors, due largely in part to one Mr. Damien Ocampo, and he’ll probably tell you as much. As I bring it up it might seem like I still haven’t really gotten over it. It was that bad of a beating.
That was a little more than 15 years ago, and if I knew then what I know now I probably wouldn’t have been quite so upset at the thought of being embarrassed on a frozen football field, and that is this: Socorro is a pretty dang fantastic place to be.
In the days since I arrived in April 2012, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting quite a number of affable, warm, welcoming and generous people.
Also in that time I’ve had the privilege of covering the Socorro County sports scene. And while by no stretch of the imagination have I executed my job flawlessly (just think Mag football or Socorro swimming), I’ve been able to witness some shining moments over the past nine or so months that deserve a little extra recognition.
So even though I’m roughly two weeks tardy with this, here are 10 of my favorite sports moments from 2012, in almost chronological order.
1. Watching the Socorro Lady Warriors golf team win something like its 970th straight state title.
Maybe it’s closer to something like six in a row, but Margaret Stanley and her team are every bit of the real deal.
My relationship with coach Stanley didn’t get off to the best start because, by many accounts, I am a moron and for some unfathomable reason I failed to cover her squad adequately in the district championship.
But since my dim-witted indiscretion I’ve gotten to know her and her family a bit and they’re some of the most pleasant and charming people I’ve ever been around. In addition to their talent, the Lady Warriors are extremely cordial and easy to talk to. But there’s one problem in covering them: They never hit the stinking ball anywhere but the fairway and the green, making dramatic action photographs near impossible to capture. I asked Margaret last year if she could have one of her girls knock just one little ball into a sand trap one time so I could get my award-winning golf shot. She said no.
2. Seeing the diamond Warriors score on a college-caliber pitcher.
St. Mike’s Colin Friedman recorded three straight no-hitters during the 2012 season and made an appearance in Sports Illustrated. When Kenny Gonzales and his team drew the Horsemen in the first round of the 3A playoffs they probably knew it would be a challenge to get on the scoreboard. But they did, collecting four hits and scoring off a fifth-inning RBI by Ignacio Chavez.
That was in just my second week at the Chieftain, and the candidness and kindness of Gonzales and his team helped solidify the fact I had made a good decision coming here.
3. Socorro Stingray swimming.
Even though my current physical form might be slightly gelatinous and even somewhat unpredictable on a day-to-day basis, I was in my former years a state runner-up in the club swimming realm. I promise. Thus, I know firsthand how grueling and demanding the sport can be. Diedra Vinson and her kids work their tails off, and they do it during the summer when every bone in a teenager’s body is screaming at them to just hang out and take it easy for a few months. I’m 31 and my body still says that every summer.
In the seven years since she’s rejuvenated the program it’s continued to grow in size and quality. Last summer the ‘Rays finished sixth in the state and qualified 80 individual swimmers. But really, I did used to swim. Stop laughing. I wouldn’t lie.
4. Steven Montoya finishing the Chile Harvest Triathlon with his daughter.
Anyone who knows Steven already knows he’s possibly the most kind and genuine human being in the universe, and if you don’t know him then understand that he’s one of the most kind and genuine human beings in the universe.
He was finishing up the final 20 or so meters at the 2012 triathlon in August when his daughter Emma started running alongside him, and they finished the race together. That might be the first time I saw two people so happy running. I got winded just watching, but I was lucky enough to get a shot of it and it’s still one of my favorite photographs.
5. Getting a tour of Alamo’s new sports facility/the Cougars’ inaugural football season.
So this isn’t a “sports moment” exactly, but Alamo Navajo School Board Inc. and executive director Michael Hawkes really know what they’re doing. They managed to build the facility without taking money from any other program, and they listened to the people when trying to figure out what new sports team to add.
The state-of-the-art stadium is a shining example of how to do things the correct way, and the entire town is a beneficiary of that method of thought.
6. Seeing the gridiron Warriors dismantle Taos on homecoming.
The Tigers were the early-season surprise of 2012 Class 3A football, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit nervous for the Warriors in having to play them on homecoming.
When I’m wrong, I am really, really, really wrong.
Socorro ran for close to 500 yards that night and held the Taos offense to fewer than 200 total yards in what turned out to be a 34-7 rout. The Warriors were coming off a seven point loss to Hope the week previous, so I was interested to see how they’d respond against another playoff-bound team. It’s safe to say they responded rather well. It is also safe to say I learned my lesson about pretending to be the type of football mind that pretends it’s a football mind at all.
7. Witnessing the machine that was Lady Warriors soccer, and seeing Dez Armijo score her 2 billionth goal.
I might be exaggerating again with that goal total, but it might as well be 2 billion because I don’t think anyone is breaking that record anytime soon.
When Dez broke the state record, it was exciting to watch. When she scored her 200th against Hatch it was interesting to watch because the focus was far more on winning than on that record.
The 2012 ladies soccer team was a blast to cover. They scored like every eight minutes, they gave wonderful interviews and it seemed like 99 percent of the time they were having fun, if not even more frequently than that. I guess winning twice a week has that effect on people; I personally wouldn’t know.
Armijo is a humble individual, Mitch and Matt Carrejo were always available and cordial and even though Socorro lost by a hair in the playoffs, everyone who went to a match this year made themselves privy to a little bit of high school sports history.
8. When the Socorro boys beat Ruidoso in their final match of the season.
It was a tough year for Dennis Walsh and his young team in terms of wins and losses, but what I witnessed with the Warriors this year isn’t necessarily a standard in high school athletics. Walsh got his kids to buy in 100 percent to his program, and not just this season but in the long term. The man has a plan, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see Socorro turn into a playoff team some time within two or three years.
The Warriors beat the Warriors 5-2 in their season finale, and sent seniors John Carilli, Will Schaffer and Kris DeCosta out on a high note. It’s not easy for seniors in any sport to go through a year in which success wasn’t necessarily measured in victories, but Walsh said his older guys never once complained.
They also never dyed their collective heads neon colors, so that might be another positive. But what do I know about fashion?
9.The evening of Oct. 18 was an emotional one for the Lady Warriors volleyball team. It was cancer
awareness night, Dennis Woods was on hand to honor his late mother and very well-liked member of the Socorro community, Trish Woods. And even though it seemed almost miniscule at the time the team also had to open up district play against Hot Springs.
What ensued was a back and forth roller coaster of a match that ended with a Socorro victory in five sets.
It was a good win, but it was a great night and a wonderful, humbling spectacle.
10. Last but definitely not least, the Magdalena volleyball team winning district — undefeated.
First year Steers coach Bryan Baca didn’t know what he had in August, other than a young team. Fast-forward to mid-November, and what he had was an undefeated district team and playoff qualifier.
The Steers went a perfect 12-0 in District 2/1A play, and even though I personally thought they got the short end of the stick with their playoff seed, it was a glaringly successful season for Mag. It finished 18-5 and I learned my lesson about speculating after that Socorro-Taos football game, but I’ll do it anyway and speculate that if the Steers hadn’t drawn powerhouse and eventual state champ Tatum in the preliminary round at state, they could have very easily made a little more noise up in Albuquerque. But that’s just, like, my opinion.
So there you have it, and all I can end with is this: it’s been a joy working here, living in Socorro, meeting so many of the fine people here and having the chance to serve the sports community. Again, I’m not perfect at it, but I don’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon. I’ll get there.
And I promise, I used to be a swimmer.