Eunice brothers Santa Cruz, Stevens continue success at Pat Henry Qualifier
By Tom Mulherin
It doesn’t matter where they compete, who they face, or even what sport it’s in; Eunice brothers Cameron Santa Cruz and Avante Stevens always seem to make an impact, one way or another.
In the fall, they were vital defensive cogs on a championship-winning football team. In basketball, they both earned All-District and All-County honors for the Cardinals. And on Tuesday, as the Eunice track and field team took on opponents of all levels in Hobbs’ Pat Henry Qualifier, Santa Cruz and Stevens again made their mark.
Santa Cruz qualified for state in the 400 dash for the first time this year, and Stevens beat several big-school athletes to take second in the high jump. They also combined with twins Kari York and Tari York to take second in the 400 and 800 relays, giving Stevens and Santa Cruz three different state-qualifying events on the day. Though, all but the 400 dash had previously been qualified.
“It’s a pretty cool thing,” Santa Cruz said. “It’s not very common to see two brothers like that. Good at every sport they play, competing in (Class 6A) track meets, state championships.”
In regards to what the two have done for the track team, head coach Gabe Gaytan isn’t surprised. In fact, he’s even trying to get a little bit more out of them.
Entering Tuesday’s meet, the two had combined for eight state qualifications. Santa Cruz, the older brother as a junior, has qualified in the triple jump, 400 relay, 800 relay and 1600 relay. Stevens, a sophomore, had qualified with his brother in the 400 and 1600 relays, on top of the high jump and 300 hurdles.
The most you can qualify in is five events per person, so that’s what Gaytan was looking for.
“They’re so athletic of course,” he said. “But the main thing here is trying to qualify five events for each one of them. That’s the goal. The goal coming into (Tuesday) was to qualify (Santa Cruz) in the 400 … and Avante in the 110 hurdles.”
Santa Cruz did his job with a 52.38-second time, which was nearly a second faster than he needed. Stevens fell short with what he described as an off day in the hurdles (didn’t even place), but continued to excel in the high jump with a six-foot jump. Only Hobbs’ Jackson Kinney finished higher, but jumped the same height in fewer tries.
Gaytan, per usual with these two, was still impressed.
“They’re so athletic, they help so much,” he said. “And they’re very coachable. Whatever I tell them to run, it’s no questions asked. Kudos to their parents, they did an excellent job raising them.”
After all, in most of their events, both Santa Cruz and Stevens not only showed improvement or consistency, but also stacked up well against serious competition.
It’s not too common that athletes at a Class 3A school do remarkably well against 4A, 5A and 6A teams. But they, along with several other Eunice athletes, did just that.
“It feels good knowing that we can keep up with these teams,” Stevens said. “Imagine what we can do in 3A.”
Of course, Gaytan isn’t the only coach to be impressed with these two.
Athletic director Robbie Robinson coaches the two boys in basketball, along with track and field as an assistant coach. From the amount of respect, hustle and care they show day in and out, she’s real bullish on them.
“The best part about them is they’re very respectful young men,” she said. “They’ll give 110 percent in everything they do, and they’re humble. Who hears of that?”
Now that Santa Cruz has qualified in five events, he’s looking to just fine tune everything on Friday in the district meet for state. Stevens is still looking to qualify in one more event, but he and those around him are confident he’ll do so.
If the competitiveness between them means anything, it sure looks like he very well could do it.