2013 Pecos graduate remembered for ready smile, athletic intensity

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Brandon Quintana’s legacy is his smile.

It is the one thing people remember of the quiet, respectful, but intense young man who ran cross-country and track plus played basketball and baseball at Pecos High School from 2008-13. It remains an enduring image for them as they remember Quintana, who died Sunday in Portales.  He was 20 years old. The cause of death was not available.

Dominick Baca, a boys assistant coach at Pecos, coached Quintana when he was in middle school for the 2008-09 season while Baca and developed a friendship that lasted through the years. He said the past few days have been difficult for friends, family and community members.

“It’s been very difficult,” Baca said. “I was just 19 years old coaching at the time, and that group of kids formed that 2013 team [that went 25-2 and were seeded No. 2 in the Class 2A State Tournament]. They were all eighth-graders and moved up to the high school [that season]. Then I went to [New Mexico] Highlands and played for four years, but we all stayed real close. They supported me and I supported them.

“Brandon became a little brother to me. He was just a great guy and a great kid. If I needed anything, he’d be there for me, and I was there for him any time he needed me.”

Clyde Sanchez, who was the head coach at Pecos until Quintana’s junior year, was devastated when he heard the news Monday. He described Quintana has an intense player who hated to lose, but was very respectful to everybody he met and always wore a smile on his face.

“I was real sick to my stomach when I heard,” Sanchez said. “In reality, he was one of my favorite players that I have ever coached. He was really special to my heart and it hurt me a lot. … I was very pleased to meet the young man and one day I will see him again.”

Fred Trujillo, Pecos superintendent, said the school provided grief counselors for students and faculty over the past few days and will continue to do so.

“This is a tough time,” Trujillo said. “I can only imagine how tough it is on his family and friends. That group of kids on that basketball team in 2012-13, they were very, very close. They grew up together. They played together and they were always together in and out of school.”

Baca said he, along with fellow alums Aaron Lujan, Darren DeHerrera, P.J. CdeBaca and Quintana kept in touch often, especially on Facebook. Quintana spent time with Baca for Thanksgiving, playing basketball with other former players and community members that morning. He even went to the Panthers season-opening basketball game at West Las Vegas’ Thanksgiving Shootout.

“He was going to be a teacher and a coach,” Baca said. “He was going to come back home and help out the young kids in our community. He would have been a great coach. He’d sometimes come to [practices] and help the guys. That was his calling. That’s what he wanted to do.”

Russ Gilmore, who coached Quintana when he was a senior for the 2012-13 season, said he felt like he knew Quintana for longer than a year and even kept in touch with him after he left in the spring of 2013. Gilmore helped Quintana play for a year at Lamar (Colo.) Community College for a year before Quintana transferred to Eastern New Mexico University.

While Gilmore saw the same qualities other people did, he also saw a kid who hid a competitive streak and a mental toughness behind the smile.

“It was a big-wide smile, and one of the most even-keeled temperaments you could ask for,” Gilmore said. “But he was big-big-time, major competitive. You knew it day in and day out, whether it was one-on-one or if he got scored upon, he’d make sure you didn’t do it again. He was a really good player.

“But he was also just an A-one young man. You couldn’t say enough about that.”

Trujillo said the outpouring from the Northern New Mexico community has been humbling. Academy for Technology and the Classics offered volunteers to help with counseling, Trujillo said, and fans from the Mora girls basketball team offered condolences to the community during its game against Pecos on Tuesday. Proceeds from the 50/50 raffle for that game went toward the Quintana family.

Pecos head boys basketball coach Ira Harge said Quintana’s funeral will take place at 11 a.m. Saturday in Louis G. Sanchez Memorial Gymnasium.

Pecos boys win Cross-Country Championship

Pecos boys win Cross-Country Championship

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Laguna-Acoma’s Kenzie Alonzo, right, leads, from left, Pecos’ Julian Garcia, Zuni’s Ryan Bowekaty and Pecos’ Michael Montano on Saturday in the Class 3A boys cross-country race in Rio Rancho. Trailing are Deion Lukee of Laguna-Acoma and Josh DeHerrera of Pecos. James Barron/The New Mexican

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Pecos senior Julian Garcia overtook teammate Josh DeHerrera in the final 200 yards to win the individual title during the Class 3A State Boys Cross-Country Championships on Saturday in Rio Rancho. The pair paced the Panthers to a repeat as state champions over Laguna-Acoma. James Barron/The New Mexican

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Pecos junior Josh DeHerrera leads the pack in the Class 3A boys cross-country race Saturday heading into the football stadium at Rio Rancho High School. Teammate Julian Garcia overtook DeHerrera in the final 200 yards to win the individual title and the pair led the Panthers to a repeat as 3A champions over Laguna-Acoma. James Barron/The New Mexican

Posted: Saturday, November 5, 2016 8:10 pm | Updated: 12:17 am, Sun Nov 6, 2016.

 

Pecos boys win Cross-Country Championship By James Barron
The New Mexican The Santa Fe New Mexican

RIO RANCHO — November belongs to the Pecos Panthers.

Patrick Ortiz, the head coach of the Pecos cross-country team, doesn’t really care what happens over the first two months of the season — all that matters is how the Panthers run for one meet in November.

“November is yours,” Ortiz recounted of his chats with his runners through the 2016 season. “Nobody else’s. This is what we train for. We don’t train for August or September or October. This is the time. This is what counts.”

When it came to this November’s Class 3A State Boys Cross-Country Championship at Rio Rancho High School on Saturday morning, Ortiz and the Panthers faithful witnessed the heart of a champion. On a day in which Santa Fe Indian School’s Michael Tenorio finally won the individual title he so craved and the Mesa Vista Trojans easily repeated as 1A/2A champions, the thousands of spectators on hand saw a comeback that can only be described as “Pecosian.”

Trailing Laguna-Acoma and Zuni at the halfway point of the 3A race, the Panthers fought back the way a defending champion does to retain their beloved blue trophy.

Paced by Julian Garcia and Josh DeHerrera’s 1-2 individual finish and buoyed by the frantic rally of No. 5 runner Isaiah Armijo, Pecos beat the Hawks for the second straight year — this time by a 34-43 count. In a race that saw the Panthers, Laguna-Acoma and Zuni take the first 16 spots, every position won or lost was doubly important. And no one’s contribution was as crucial as Armijo’s.

Normally the No. 4 runner in Pecos’ scoring ladder, Armijo struggled as the No. 6 runner, languishing around 17-20th place through the first half of the race. That mimicked the Panthers’ struggles, as they trailed Laguna-Acoma and Zuni at the halfway mark by a 37-42-45 count. Armijo was still in 18th with a half-mile to go when he made the push of a lifetime for the freshman.

He passed Cottonwood Classical Prep’s Tyler Gibson, Zuni’s Jarek Chimoni-Zunie, then Cameron Sanchez and Terrence Lukee of Laguna Acoma. Gaining four spots meant gaining seven points in the standings for the Panthers. For Armijo, that finish meant everything to him.

“It makes me feel that my teammates can trust me now,” Armijo said. “I’m part of the group. They know I’m there, but they’re up front doing their part. They’re not focusing on me, so I have to do that.”

As for the Panthers up front, Garcia and DeHerrera moved from fourth and fifth, respectively, to lead the pack. DeHerrera had the lead with about 200 yards left, but Garcia turned on the speed over that span to beat his teammate for the individual title with a time of 16 minutes, 46.65 seconds. DeHerrera trailed by 1.55 seconds.

Still, the stadium oozed nervous anticipation as the results were tallied. It broke when Rio Rancho cross-country head coach Sal Gonzales, a Pecos graduate and former head coach whose boys team finished second in the 6A race an hour before, raced toward Ortiz shouting, “Thirty-four-[to]-43! Thirty-four-[to]-43!” He even leaped over the fence to embrace Ortiz, who ran for him in the mid-2000s, in an electric congratulation.

“It was heart, pure heart,” Ortiz said.

It was a good day — no, great day — to be a Pecos Panther. Even better than breaking a 17-year drought last year?

“Oh yeah, a lot better,” Garcia said. “It’s the last race of my high school career, and we went out with a bang. The pressure was on, but we got it done.”

Pecos awarded prestigious Director’s Cup

Pecos awarded prestigious Director’s Cup

By Glen Rosales / For Journal North

Friday, October 14th, 2016 at 12:02am

Pecos High school accumulated a number of athletic and academic achievements last year in order to earn the New Mexico Activities Association’s Director’s Cup.

There was a time not all that long ago that Pecos High School was not exactly known for its successes.

Not anymore.

Room will have to made in the Panthers’ trophy case for a new bauble that trumps all the rest.

Earlier this week, the New Mexico Activities Association awarded Pecos the Director’s Cup for Class 3A, signifying athletic and academic excellence.

“The Subway Director’s Cup is given annually to schools based upon their overall performance in athletics, activities and sportsmanship,” said the NMAA’s Dusty Young. “Each school honoree has demonstrated excellence in the areas of character, teamwork, and creating a successful athletic and activities program during the course of the school year.”

“We’re pretty proud,” said district superintendant and athletic director Fred Trujillo. “We’re pretty excited.”

Although the current version of the award has been in existence just since the 2004-05 school year when Gary Tripp took over as NMMA executive director, earlier versions, known as the All Sports trophy, go back even longer, Young said.

This is the first time Pecos has received either version. Los Alamos received the 5A award for the third time since 2007.

“It is a great honor to receive this coveted trophy because it requires our member schools to build well-rounded programs through both athletics and activities, while also putting a heavy emphasis on our Compete with Class initiative as part of the process,” said NMAA executive director Sally Marquez.

Pecos truly had a banner season athletically in 2015-16, with the boys winning state championships in cross-country, and track and field. The school has only won two prior state championships total.

“Last year was by far our best athletics Pecos has seen in its many years of existence,” Trujillo said.

Defending 3A individual cross-country champion Julian Garcia of Pecos also helped the Panthers win the cross-country, and track and field state championships.

In addition to its blue trophies, the Panthers were runners-up in cheerleading and baseball, and both the boys and girls basketball teams reached the semifinals.

“That in itself helped accumulate quite a bit of points for the school,” Trujillo said.

In reality, however, Trujillo said the award can be attributed to the entire school community, from administrators, teachers, coaches, staff and school board all the way through the students.

Even the community of Pecos has stepped up, he said.

“We’ve all joined together to support the school district tremendously,” he said. “Attending games, showing up at academic awards night and pushing how important it is to be in school.”

A big turning point, Trujillo said, was five or six years ago when the town passed a school bond that provided for a new track, new baseball and softball complex, and a new computer lab, as well as upgrades for the classrooms.

“This is something the community is going to celebrate,” he said. “We do have an outstanding community. As the school goes, the community goes, and we’ve turned that corner. We’ve had very good academic output.

“We’re very proud of our dual credit program. We bus our juniors and seniors to New Mexico Highlands, Luna Community College and Santa Fe Community College so they’re getting college credit. Some of our kids get enough college credit that some go into college as sophomores or juniors.”

And that holds for the athletes, as well, Trujillo said.

“The bulk of our student athletes have very high (grade-point averages), which is great when they’re applying for colleges and scholarships,” he said. “Pecos has come a long way in the past five or six years in terms of academic and athletic output.”