SARA BRIGHTWELL | EDITOR
Ms. Deanna Amend, choir director, recently received the New Mexico Music Educator of the Year award. Ms. Amend has been teaching choir and piano for thirteen years at La Cueva. She has lived out her dream of teaching music and singing in a church choir at Faith Lutheran Church.
“The love I share with my students… That’s my favorite part about teaching,” said Amend. “I love when we are all together, like we absolutely knew we were all together every time we have won state championships. We know that we are all together, our hearts, and minds, and voices are all together, so I love that. That’s the best part.”
Choir students share their favorite memories from choir and being with Ms. Amend. Becca Luten is a junior here at La Cueva and she has been in choir for three years, “My best experience was when we sang at a retirement home and talking and seeing these people was a lot of fun,” said Luten. “They really enjoyed the singing and dancing.”
Community engagement is one aspect of Amend’s work with choir that sets her apart from other teachers. Another aspect is her unending belief in her students. “Ms. Amend is always very encouraging and supportive of us when we are singing and always wants us to do our best and work together in a positive environment,” Luten said.
“My favorite memory has to be when Main Street made finals in Texas,” Darby Jaramillo, freshman, said. “We were all in the warm-up room to go on stage again. We were extremely grateful and exhilarated for another chance to preform. Our chant was so enthusiastic and we were all finally a team with the same end goal.”
Whether it’s national level competition or in-State adjudication, Amend brings out positive spirit in her students. “Ms. Amend opens up your heart and makes your passion to sing and dance better,” Jaramillo said.
Ultimately, Ms. Amend is in it for the students. “I love to see them shine. I like to see them have great success. Comes from a lot of hard work.”
AUSTIN DENTON | SPORTS
Student body election day is nearing at La Cueva, and there are plenty of candidates to choose from for student body president and student body vice president. If you are at a crossroads on who to vote for, here is an analysis of each candidate and their involvement with the school.
Candidates for Student Body President (in no particular order):
Involved in: Student Senate, Swimming & Diving, Make-A-Wish Club, Peer Mentorship
More About Hannah: Hannah Jenson is excited for the opportunity to make sure those outside of the Student Senate have their voices heard. “I want to make sure that the kids outside of senate get their voices and opinions heard,” said Jenson. “…I (also) want to make sure that the spirit continues to grow with bringing more unity to the school all together.”
Jenson feels that she is the best candidate for student body president because of her ability to work in stressful situations. “I am also a person who listens to people’s voices while making sure the decision that is going to benefit the most people will happen,” she also said. “…I want La Cueva to not only thrive, but to be the absolute best school it can be.”
Involved in: Student Senate, DECA
More about Anam: Anam Nadeem is a knowledgeable candidate who believes that by building leadership within La Cueva, the school can become more unified. “I want to be able to create a sense of pride, school spirit, commitment, responsibility, and enthusiasm that best reflects La Cueva…,”Nadeem said. “This includes creating participation and support for and from everyone, making sure nobody gets left out.”
Nadeem feels she is the best candidate for student body president because she believes that she can take into consideration all concerns at La Cueva. “I have the advantage of being in other communities such as DECA and the ability to understand the diversity within our school,” she said.
Involved in: Student Senate, Track & Field, Make-A-Wish Club
More about Izzy: Izzy Swanson is a spirited candidate who plans to make La Cueva and school overall feel less like a “prison.” She is planning on doing that by “…making sure we have community services groups to help clean up the school and also have motivational posters everywhere.”
Swanson takes a humble mentality to her campaign, feeling that she is no better than any one of her other contenders. But she added that if you do choose to vote for her, “I would do my best to make student sections assemblies and dances way more hype than they already are.”
Involved in: Student Senate, Cheerleading, Peer Mentorship, Super SAC
More about Madi: Madi Lacy is a very outgoing candidate with campaign plans to bring more fun to the school, building the excitement. “I want to increase our school spirit and participation in and out of school to get more involved with each other and our community,” she said.
When Lacy was asked why she would be the best candidate for the job, she said, “I believe that I can be a great representative of our school being a part of La Cueva sports and student council while holding academics as important.”
Involved in: Student Senate, Swimming & Diving, Volleyball, National English Honors Society
More about Rose: Rose Pineda is a cheerful candidate whose goal for La Cueva next year is to increase school pride. “My goal for La Cueva is to bring back the pride students should have in calling themselves a bear,” Pineda said.
Pineda says that if you choose to vote for her in the election, she will take her leadership role seriously. “I have been able to learn from my mistakes and successes in each one (leadership roles she’s taken). Leadership is truly about setting an example for people to follow. I feel that I am someone who emulates the characteristics of a strong leader.”
Candidates for Student Body Vice President (in no particular order):
Involved In: Student Senate, Swimming & Diving, Choir, FCA, Make-A-Wish Club, Key Club, National English Honors Society, UNICEF Club
More about Megan: Megan Remington is involved in eight different clubs across the school, she plans to get more students involved in school activities. “I plan to get more people involved in school activities and feel more welcome,” Remington said. “I also hope to hear the ideas of people and use them to make decisions for the school and activities…”
When asked why she is the best candidate for student body vice president, she said, “My running mate is a very good opponent and I have my work cut out for me, but I have been in senate since freshman year and I do feel like I have more diversity in clubs and people so I can advocate for more people.”
Involved in: Student Senate, Volleyball, National Honor Societies (English and Math)
More about Elena: Elena Garcia is a spirited candidate who believes that she can make sure that the outside community has a say in what goes on at the school, and that the student council themselves isn’t making the entirety of the decision. “Most of the kids at this school don’t really get a say in what happens,” Garcia said. “So I wanna make sure I get everyone’s voices heard whether it’s I go and talk to different sports groups, different activities…”
Garcia encourages the voters to make their vote for her because she said that she has wanted to see a change in spirit in this school ever since she was a freshman, and embodies the role of a perfectionist. “This is my first year in Senate, so I know I may not be as qualified as the other, but I feel I am the best because of my nature of being high-spirited and I love our school.”
The Lone Candidate for Student Body Secretary:
Involved in: Student Senate
More about Jenna: Jenna Rorem is running unopposed for student body secretary in this year’s election, but she still encourages the student body to write in their vote for her on the ballot and her fellow running mates for student body president and vice president. “The student body should still vote for me because I believe I can make a change and it is important that the student body chooses someone for the position,” Rorem said.
Her goals for this next school year as secretary are to make assemblies and pep rallies more exciting, adding, “I also believe that I can set the example and get many others to be excited for school events which will boost spirit.”
Voting will take place on Tuesday, March 13th.
AUSTIN DENTON | SPORTS
March Madness is about to get underway in the state of New Mexico, as the boys and girls Class 6A tournament will feature La Cueva in both tournaments, with the boys as the #10 seed, and the girls as the #11 seed. The boys take on the #7 Hobbs Eagles and the girls take on the #6 Rio Rancho Lady Rams. Here’s an in-depth preview of each game:
Boys First Round, #7 Hobbs Eagles vs. #10 La Cueva Bears:
Date: Saturday, March 3rd / Time: 6:30 pm / Location: Ralph Tasker Arena at Hobbs High School in Hobbs, NM.
Season Series: First meeting between the two teams this season.
Record: 20-9, 8-4 in District 3-6A (District 3-6A Tournament Champions)
Head Coach: Mike Smith
Key Player: #44 Clay Strasner, averaging 26.5 points per game, and 8.4 rebounds per game.
Record: 18-10, 6-4 in District 2-6A (District 2-6A Tournament Runner-Up)
Head Coach: Frank Castillo
Key Player: #3 Tyler Aeilts, averaging 19.4 points per game, and eight rebounds per game.
A battle of the bigs will ensue on Saturday when La Cueva makes the trek down south to take on the Hobbs Eagles. Both the Eagles and the Bears have had a strong post presence, with Clay Strasner under the basket for Hobbs, and Tyler Aeilts and Isaiah Ortega combining under the basket for the Bears.
For the Bears, this season was the first winning season since the 2012-13 season, which was notable alumnus Bryce Alford’s senior season. That year was also the last year the Bears have made it past a first-round game in the state tournament. This year’s La Cueva squad looks to break that streak and pull off the upset win against Hobbs. This year was already historic for La Cueva, as longtime head coach Frank Castillo picked up his 700th career win.
The Eagles, on the other hand, are one of the most storied programs in New Mexico high school basketball history, with 17 state championships under their belt, the majority of those thanks to legendary coaches Ralph Tasker and Russ Gilmore. All those state championships rank 9th in the entire nation.
Current head coach Mike Smith has been filling the shoes of the program well, with winning seasons in all of the seven seasons he has coached the Eagles. This season is the best season for the Eagles since 2014-15 when the Eagles went 30-2 and won the state championship.
The keys to the game for the Bears to pull off the upset is to find the answer on defense in containing Clay Strasner, who averages 26.5 points per game and 8.4 rebounds a game. Strasner has been the key piece to the Eagles’ success this year and also has had help from Alec Finney, who averages 18.6 points per game.
If La Cueva’s T. Aeilts matches up with Strasner, he only will have a one-inch height advantage, but if Ortega matches up with Strasner, they will be equal in height. The Bears could also have Ja’Shon Lowery match in the post with the Eagles’ bigs. If the Bears choose to go to the outside, Derek Aeilts, Lawrence Calais, and Cristian Ramirez will be the shooters that can make them no matter the range.
The Eagles will have the “don’t fix what isn’t broke” mentality heading into this game, meaning they will more than likely continue to toss the ball to Strasner and Finney, who will find their way to create the high-percentage shots to get Hobbs on the board.
Girls First Round, #6 Rio Rancho Lady Rams vs. #11 La Cueva Lady Bears:
Date: Friday, March 2nd / Time: 7:00pm / TV: NFHS Network / Location: Rio Rancho High School, Rio Rancho, NM.
Season Series: Rio Rancho leads 1-0 (Rio Rancho won 47-37)
Record: 21-7, 5-3 in District 1-6A (District 1-6A Tournament Champions)
Head Coach: Scott Peterson
Key Player: #35 Kamirah Decker, averages 18 points per game, and 10 rebounds per game.
Record: 15-11, 7-3 in District 2-6A (District 2-6A Tournament Runner-Up)
Head Coach: Rob Perea
Key Player: #3 Brooke Nelson, averages 13 points per game, and 5.6 rebounds per game.
After coming up just short of the state championship last year, the La Cueva Lady Bears look to make a run in this year’s state tournament, and it starts on Friday when they take on the Rio Rancho Lady Rams, who also have a redemption story of their own. La Cueva, who enters the game as the underdog as the #11 seed, will be once again without their leading scorer and a key piece of their team, Kaya Ingram. Ingram was averaging 18.3 points per game before her ankle injury in their game against Manzano, so now the Bears will look to Brooke Nelson for their scoring needs, along with their other starters. Nelson is currently averaging 13 points per game and is also the leading rebounder with 5.6 rebounds a game.
The Lady Rams, on the other hand, are looking to make it past the first round game and enter the state quarterfinals for the first time since 2009. With one of the best seasons in a while for the program and the best season under third-year head coach Scott Peterson, the Lady Rams are hoping to take their team to new heights in this year’s tournament. Kamirah Decker, Laura Gutierrez, and Camryn Hawkins are the top three leading scorers and make the core of Rio Rancho’s offense.
The keys to the game for the Lady Rams to win is to continue sharing the basketball like they have done all season, as the team averages 13.8 assists per game. Their team chemistry is one that will have to continue to play out on the court this game if they want to get to the Santa Ana Star Center. Rio Rancho could also be riding some momentum into this game, as they are coming off unarguably one of their best wins of the season against the #1 Cibola Lady Cougars to secure the District 1-6A tournament championship.
As for the Lady Bears, their shooting needs to get started early and fast. The team chemistry of the Lady Bears is better whenever they are also sharing the ball and their shots are falling from high-percentage spots on the court. The Lady Bears average 11.5 assists per game. Since Rio Rancho has more of a presence in the post with Decker under the basket, La Cueva will need to look at shooting more from the perimeter and mid-range to create their best opportunities at some points.
The Edition wishes both the boys and girls good luck as they start their quest for the blue trophy. Go Bears!