When Albuquerque Public Schools announced it was opening the door to out-of-state travel for its spring sports programs this year, the La Cueva baseball team was one of the first to sign up for a chance to pack.
The Bears this week are headed to the Phoenix area to play four games in the Coach Bob National Invitational. There are 100 teams scheduled to compete, spread across multiple locations.
Not counting cheerleading squads, La Cueva is the first team from an APS major team sport to benefit from this new initiative.
“We’ve been invited to several national tournaments in the past,” Bears coach Gerard Pineda said. “It’s something we’ve always wanted to do.”
APS district athletic director Adrian Ortega told the Journal last April that it was coming, starting with spring sports in the 2022-23 school year.
Fall sports programs — with the exception of football — and winter sports programs can make a similar trip starting in the 2023-24 school year, if they choose. Albuquerque High, for example, is circulating the possibility of taking its boys and girls basketball teams to Juneau, Alaska for an event next season. AHS athletic director Chad Jones said the school is close to being finalized.
Football has to wait because the 2023 season is the back end of a two-year schedule block, so they couldn’t leave the state for a game until the 2024 season. La Cueva is expected to be the first to schedule such an out-of-state game.
Ortega said he consulted with the 13 high school principals “and all 13 were in favor of this initiative.”
Travel is limited to one trip per season, and does not necessarily have to be outside the borders of New Mexico. It could be an intrastate tour/weekend.
And there’s a catch: teams have to raise the money to pay for these trips themselves. Pineda said a few weeks ago that La Cueva would be in his “high teens” to travel to Arizona. They leave on Wednesday. They will play one game on Thursday, two on Friday and a fourth game on Saturday.
“We’ve been wanting to go play in other states and see how we stack up against people from all over the country,” Pineda said. “I’m very grateful to the APS administration for allowing us to do this.”
The trip is one of several changes Ortega has implemented since taking office. Allowing eighth graders to play high school is another; Bringing in schools from outside the metro area for metro tournaments that began with basketball tournaments in January was another.
PASSESON HARDWOOD HONORS: Gatorade has named Volcano Vista sophomore forward Kenyon Aguino the New Mexico Player of the Year.
The 6-foot-7 Aguino, who most recently led the Hawks to the Class 5A state title, averaged 19 points, 9 rebounds and 3 assists.
Meanwhile, MaxPreps.com selected its top two players from the 2022-2023 season. They are Del Norte senior guard Shane Douma-Sanchez and Eldorado sophomore guard Bella Hines.
IT’S COMING: Rio Rancho is hosting baseball and softball tournaments this week.
The Sal Puentes Tournament begins Thursday, with some of the state’s top baseball teams in the field, including defending 5A state champion Carlsbad.
The Cavemen meet Cleveland at 1:30pm on Thursday. Valley takes on Albuquerque Academy at 11 a.m., Sandia plays Artesia at 4 p.m., and the host Rams take on Goddard at 6:30 p.m. The semifinals are Friday, the championship game is Saturday at 3 p.m.
The Kristin Griego Softball Tournament at Eagle Ridge High School is arguably the most elite regular season event in New Mexico. 22 schools are registered. Metro finalists La Cueva and Volcano Vista are among them; so are three of last year’s state champions — Carlsbad (5A), Gallup (4A) and Robertson (3A).
The championship game takes place on Saturday at 4:00 p.m.
THIS AND THAT: Manny Vigil was announced Monday as the head girls basketball coach at Los Lunas High School. He is a former coach at Valencia and most recently at Alamogordo. … Adding eighth-grade athletes to high school sports paid off for Kiana Weirick of Manzano, who recently won a golf tournament at Arroyo Del Oso Golf Course. … Valley High football player Caeden Jojola has made a football commitment to New Mexico Highlands in Las Vegas.
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