The Cross-Country Trails At Jacona

THE CROSS-COUNTRY TRAILS AT JACONA Over the many years I’ve been a runner I’ve often had to explain my love and fascination with my choice of this pastime. It has been easy to explain the friendship of my fellows and the advantages of health benefits (less the knees and flat feet!). But as a coach seeking to convince those wonders in the sport’s world, my cross country kids, of the rewards of running in the hills and trails of Jacona I always mentioned the two easiest things that came into my mind: one of course was “downhill”, the return trip coming home to the start; the other was of running where no one else would go, and see the beauty and the wonders of this part of the beautiful Pojoaque Valley! These runners have left their mark, not so much in the trails but in the names they’ve given to their choice of venue.

The Pojoaque runners under my tutelage have been using the area near the high school at Jacona for over 20 years. The trails often have been un-named and I’ve referred the kids to running to this place or that place. The names we’ve given to areas and trails usually have designations that come about over the years. I’ve often been asked whether I plan on naming a new trail after a certain runner, often by that runner! And no, I wouldn’t ever consider such an ego-fueling move. We just start naming these trails over time referring to who might have run there over time or of some aspect of the geography.

For example, “Pete’s Loop” was named for long-time Pojoaque coach Pete Bowman. A run of about 7 miles up and around arroyos this is a tough run. And Pete was a tough runner. And in those days of the early ‘90’s a runner had a goal of doing this run as a challenge. I often asked older girls to try and do this run before the end of the season. A great run.

We don’t often do this Pete’s run anymore as we do “Roper’s” now. Roper (Eloy Sanchez because he looked like Mr. Roper on “Three’s Company” fame and not my idea) and Javier Rodriguez often disappeared on the Pete’s loop run and then re-appeared at the top of the run. Turns out that they followed the same run but along the ridges, a great challenge and view the whole distance. This run now is often used as an 8, 9, or 10 mile run! Roper won a 3rd place medal at state and ran for 4 years at NMHU. Javier was a two-time all-state runner for Pojoaque also, and son of current coach Art Rodriguez.

Two early runs were named for a couple of my early greats. “Justy’s”, one of the closest trails, was named for Justy Armijo, one of my earlier great leaders in track and cross country. Another early-named runs is “Ben’s”, named for Ben Ray Lujan, who for whatever reason has gone on to other important “runs”! Ben’s is about 1 ½ miles out so makes an easy and fun 3 mile run. At the top of Ben’s is a wonderful view of the valley and the Jacona school site. I’ve posted some views of this run on my Face book site; no charge!

Lee Garcia was another great runner with trails named for him. And these names came from the guys and Coach Bowman as I could never could keep up with these kids by the time Lee was running. Lee was a great NM runner winning all- state honors and running at NMHU for 4 years. “Lee’s ridge” was a long run up and down hills to the Rio Grande from Jacona of some 8 or 9 miles. “Lee’s trail” was a long trail up along ridges to the “Meadows”, about 7 miles round trip with great views to the west! The Meadows are two small vails along the ridges following Lee’s trail. These become a great goal for a challenging run even today. Staying on this trail and following a fence line one reaches the uppers of Roper’s as a loop and a 11 mile run! This longest loop took on the name of another Pojoaque great – Ronald Roybal – and became “Ronald’s”. Ronald was state cross –country champion as well as state champion in track in the mile and two mile. He went on to Colorado University as an All-American and Olympic qualifier.

 The class of ’93 had so many great runners that I couldn’t select individuals so I renamed the “big arroyo” the “ ’93 arroyo”. Four of the kids in that class went on to run in college!

Another of our greats was Jackie Gallegos and some of the kids named a trail for her. She was 3 – time state champion in cross country as well as in the mile and two mile in track and holds many of our track records today. Jackie went on to UNM as a track and cross country runner and ran at the NCAA National cross country twice. A great leader and example for many girls that followed her she has moved on, as many others have, to running marathons today. “Jackie’s” is a short run connecting “Ben’s” to “Ronald’s”. This run bears the marks of Jackie’s shoes from many runs she ran along Ronald’s over her years in college and after.

Two other great runs for our kids are the “Back of the Horseshoe” and “To Hell ”! Pete Bowman named the “To Hell” one time long ago in the early ‘90’s. He and the varsity boys came in late from a long run and I asked where they had run. One of the guys said, “to some hill way the hell and back out there”! A great 5 plus miles of up and down hills – about seven ridges each way and still a challenge. On the trip out to this trail one climbs a ridge via a hill I always called some innocuous name but Amy seemed to feel it had the aspects of the “Grand Tetons” on another state and so now we run to the “boob”! No, not my choice other than sometimes I think it could refer to their mentality when I get mad at them!

The “Horseshoe” is a ridge of that shape some two miles out with a nice, challenging trail behind it that makes a round trip of almost 6 miles. This is actually the first part of “Roper’s” and an important goal for young runners. The challenging nature of this run is offset by the almost 360 degree view of our surrounding valley and hills and mountains on the East and West!

Some other names that are used today still for kids that have come and gone over the years include: Tammy’s, a 2 mile round trip; Paula’s, a long ridge up to the horse shoe, a run of 4 miles; the bottom loop of one mile; the top loop of 1 1/2 miles; Anjel’s, for a young man who died too soon! As people drive along the highway on their way they can see these places where so many winners have, and still, run.These ridges and arroyos at Jacona, part of the B. L. M. and State and Land Grant lands, make running with the PVHS kids in a lovely area a great adventure! Join us! You’ll like it!

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One Response to “The Cross-Country Trails At Jacona”

  1. almadelagitana Says:

    Reading this makes me happy and nostalgic!

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