All-star appearances are wrapping up year

Magdalena’s Kael Stephens will be representing New Mexico at the Greater Southwest Track and Field Meet at the University of New Mexico in the decathlon. The 47th annual meet is one of the top post-season events in the country and draws the best athletes from across the country.
Russell Huffman | El Defensor Chieftain

Socorro County was well represented during the 2022-23 high school sports season, with high-caliber teams and individual performances capturing the attention of fans as the championships were brought home to celebrate.

It’s hard to cherry-pick the top achievements of the season, but none can compare to the Socorro girls golf team. The Lady Warriors brought home a third consecutive state title, Tivonne Anaya won the individual crown, and all the girls finished in the top ten.

Not only will the Lady Warriors have bragging rights over the Warriors, who finished as runner-up, but they were the only county squad to come away with a state team championship.

Having only one team state championship county-wide wasn’t due to a lack of effort, as many teams faced a battle against inexperience and needed more senior players. Most coaches will tell you they are still struggling with numbers because of COVID, and it may be another one to two school years before rosters return to an average balance.

Magdalena’s boys basketball programs were one exception to COVID-depleted rosters. The Steers went undefeated until the year’s final game against Fort Sumner and missed their chance at a three-peat.

Regardless of the outcome, the Steers gave everyone a thrilling ride, and fans poured out of Alamo, Magdalena and Socorro to support them in their title quest.

Basketball was a proving ground for the Alamo Navajo boys and girls teams as the Cougars won their first-ever district title and a state playoff game. The Lady Cougars’ nucleus of athletes produced a playoff basketball team and a final-four berth in the state volleyball playoffs.

Socorro’s regular season basketball looked grim until the district season arrived. Still, each loss along the way hardened the teams’ resolve, and when district play was finished, Socorro had won both the boys and girls titles.

If anyone is counting, Socorro County was six-for-six when it came to varsity basketball teams making the postseason.

Socorro and Magdalena’s football teams also made it to the postseason, and the Warriors won their fifth-consecutive district football championship and were ranked No. 1 heading into the playoffs.

There was also a slew of individual state title winners, with David Gutierrez Jr. and Caden Moreland bringing home wrestling championships.

In track and field, the Steer’s Kael Stephens successfully defended his 110-meter hurdles championship, and high-flying D’Shaun Vinyard returned with gold in the high jump and long jump competitions.

Both athletes would combine with Josh Baca and Ayden Herschbach to set a new Class A 4×400 relay record of 3:34.56. The new mark shattered the old record by more than two seconds.

More records will likely fall next year in Socorro after junior Braden Mounyo emerged as the state’s 300-meter hurdles champion and freshman Jay Lee won the pole vault.

Socorro County also had a fair share of the New Mexico High School Coaches Association’s all-star selections.

Socorro’s Xamien Aguilar, Caden Moreland and Brian Armijo made the squad in football, while Magdalena’s Kael Stephens and Kaleb Castanon were top picks.

All three county schools sent players to the all-star basketball games, with Alamo’s Hailey Apachito and Mathis Apachito, Magdalena’s D’Shaun Vineyard and Kael Stephens and Socorro’s Marcus Armijo and Warren Chewiwi all earning selections.

Magdalena picked up the only all-star honors in baseball with Castanon, and Josh Baca headed to play a three-game series in Rio Rancho at Cleveland High School on June 2-3.