New Mexico Olympic History: The 1950’s, Alamogordo High Schools First State Track & Field Title & New Mexico’s First Native Born Olympian Marvel

The 1950’s and Alamogordo’s First State Track & Field Title in New Mexico History

Photo on Blog and in original article posted to 2nd Life Media’s Alamogordo Town News courtesy of Coach Bob Sepulveda The Early Days Book Series and Archives. To see more photos of sports from the 50’s, 60s and 70s, visit 2ndlifemedia.com

The 1951/52 Track & Field Season was very historic for Southern New Mexico and for Alamogordo, with a state medal win from some very distinctive athletes.

The results of the State Competition winners include…

  • Bobby Lee, 1st Place, 100 Yard Dash, 9.8
    • Bobby Lee, 1st Place,220 Yard Dash, 21.21.6
    • Bobby Lee, 1st Place, Long Jump, 21’-01.375
    • Norman Kinder, 1st Place, Pole Vault, 10’-10.50”
    • Benny Garcia, 1st Place. Javelin, 193’-01.325

The Alamogordo Tigers Track and Field Team of 1951/52 smashed the competition at the state finals of that year.

They took and won the state competition with 48.5 points. Albuquerque High, the 1951 State Champion scored 21.5 points less for a 2nd place finish of 27 points.

  • Lee in addition to setting 2 state records personally scored 24 ¾ points. He broke the state records in the 100-yard dash by .2 seconds and the 220 by .8 seconds better than the record.
    • Lee was also 3rd Place in Shot Put
  • Benny Garcia shattered the state record in Javelin 11’ 3 ⅛” of 5 state records; the Tigers broke 3 of them.
  • Norman Kinder Placed 1st in Pole Vault with 10’-10.50”
  • Ed McAlpine, 2nd Place. in the state competition in Javelin behind Garcia.
  • Bobby Fritz, 3rd Place, Broad Jump
  • In the sprints in addition to the 1st Place wins of Bobby Lee, Oliver Lee, 4th Place 180 Low Hurdles.
  • The 880 Yard Relay Team consisting of Henderson, Fritz, O Lee and Bobby Lee placed with a 3rd place medal.
  •  Benny Garcia shattered the state record in Javelin 11’ 3 ⅛” of 5 state records; the Tigers broke 3 of them.
  • Norman Kinder, 1st Place, Pole Vault, 10’-10.50”

Coach Rolla Buck was incredibly pleased that year with his team having won both the state football title and the state track and field title. He said his boys; “overperformed and beat his expectations.”

 Coach Buck viewed Bobby Lee as “the best high school overall athlete the state of New Mexico had ever seen” to that point.

He also said that Garcia was the best Javelin player ever to come out of New Mexico’s high school system.

Two incredibly special athletes and their legacy is an honor to Alamogordo from that seasons track and field team of the early 1950s. Both athletes go down into the sports history of the United States, New Mexico and certainly of the Alamogordo community for their achievements.

Bobby Lee, after the amazing team results at Ysleta, (7 first place finishes out of 10 competitions) and winning the District Meet several athletes went to Albuquerque and competed at University Stadium in the State Competition. It was here that Bobby Lee set the state record on the 100 Yard Dash with a 9.8 which stood for 20 years and of course this strong team won Alamogordo’s first State Track and Field State Title.  

Bobby Lee also won the 220 Yard Dash and the Long Jump garnering enough points by himself to win the track meet for Alamogordo High School beating favored Highland High School which placed second.

In 1951 there was no class system in competitions, so all size schools and teams competed.

Bobby Lee kept his competitive spirit going as an adult and became a recognized political cartoonist and eventual New Mexico State Senator.

Coach Bob Sepulveda Alamogordo High Schools winningest Track and Field Coach in its 108 year history of the program  said of Bobby Lee; “Bobby Lee remained a strong supporter and advocate for the Alamogordo High School Track & Field Program as an adult. He attended many of the state meets. Bobby would come by and visit my student athletes in the 70’s and the 80’s for support of our team. He was a true leader on the field and as an adult for decades beyond.”

                                Also, of note from the 1951 competition was the amazing Javelin Talents of Benny Garcia with a distance of 193’-01.325.

The next year of 1952 brought Alamogordo High School Track & Field back to the winner’s circle with Benny Garcia winning for the second consecutive year in the Javelin competition.

  • Javelin Benny Garcia medalled with 186’-03.50”

Benny Garcia was an excellent Football kicker. He was on the B team. After some injuries and with the objection of his father concerned about him being injured, he became the primary starting kicker. Albert Romero sprained his ankle and Benny became the primary kicker after that. He had a reputation for making it between the goal posts when it mattered most.

Coach Buck saw Garcia’s talents and made concessions to ensure he was able to take part in the school athletic programs.

Benny would walk or run 6 miles home in the dark after practice to La Luz.

 At the request of Coach Rolla Buck, Superintendent Barnie arranged the use of a driver education vehicle for Benny to use so that he could take part in Sports.

The extra effort paid off for the High School and was life changing for Benny.

His real notoriety came from the Javelin throwing. He set the state record that stood from 1951 to 1966. That record got the attention of the Arizona State University Track and Field Coach that awarded him a full ride scholarship.

He is the only graduate of Alamogordo to make it to the Olympics taking part in the Melbourne Olympics in 1956. He was the first native-born New Mexico athlete to ever compete in the Olympics.

His name is displayed at the Tigers Hall of Fame, Arizona State Hall of Fame, Drake Relays Hall of Fame, and US Navy Hall of Fame.

At the 1956 Olympics he finished 8th place, disappointing Garcia but making his hometown exceptionally proud.

Garcia went on to live a phenomenally successful life as a high achieving Tiger Alumni and a respected businessman in Arizona.  He died in 2015.

Special Note on Alamogordo New Mexico:

Alamogordo High School and the region of Southern New Mexico has a rich history in sports and academic achievement. In the 1950’s and 60’s Alamogordo High School ranked in the top 10 High Schools for athletic and academic achievement in the United States. The region has a rich history in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It is home to the International Space Hall of Fame and is the testing ground for the latest in drone and military technology via Holloman Air Force Base and White Sands Missile Testing Grounds.

Today, Alamogordo is also the home to New Mexico State University, Alamogordo and is recognized for its pistachio farms, proximity to White Sands National Park and the Lincoln National Forest. As an oddity, Alamogordo is home to the largest Pistachio Sculpture in the World at the McGinn’s Pistachio Tree Ranch just outside Alamogordo.

For photos and more visit https://2ndlifemediaalamogordo.town.news/g/alamogordo-nm/n/27497/1950s-alamogordo-high-schools-first-state-track-field-title-new-mexicos

For the complete sports history of the founding of interscholastic sports to its impact on a small town check out Coach Bob Sepulveda The Early Days 1912 to 1976 on Amazon and fine independent book sellers such as Roadrunner Emporium, 928 New York Avenue Alamogord, New Mexico and fine independent book sellers nationwide. Coach Bob Sepulveda The Golden Years 1977 to 1995 coming soon.

Remembering the Challenger 35 years later – Author Chris Edwards

The Space Shuttle Challenger disaster was a fatal incident in the United States’ space program that occurred on January 28, 1986, when the Space Shuttle Challenger (OV-099) broke apart 73 seconds into its flight, killing all seven crew members aboard. The crew consisted of five NASA astronauts, and two payload specialists. The mission carried the designation STS-51-L and was the tenth flight for the Challenger orbiter. The Challenger disaster should best be remembered for the sacrifice of seven astronauts who died in the accident-  Judith ResnikDick Scobee, Capt. Michael J. SmithEllison Onizuka,  Ronald McNairChrista McAuliffe, and Gregory Jarvis.

But for those currently in leadership positions, it should also be remembered as a colossal failure of process – a process designed by the best and the brightest. By the people who sent men to the moon. That was a sobering thought on January 28, 1986, and it remains so today.

The space shuttle Challenger disaster remains one of the most evocative events of the American 20th Century—and for more than just the obvious reasons.

Certainly, the 35th anniversary of this tragedy returns to mind a multitude of images, memories and emotions that prompt pause. But it also reminds us of the crucial importance of informed decision making and risk oversight which are as relevant today as they were on January 28, 1986.

As some will remember, the specific, highly technical cause of the Challenger accident was the notorious “O-Ring”; i.e. the failure of the pressure seal in the aft field joint of the right solid rocket motor. The failure was due to a faulty design unacceptably sensitive to a number of factors, including the effects of cold temperature (launchpad temperature was 36 degrees on January 28).

But more important to remember is the decidedly non-technical contributing cause: the multiple risk management errors that fatally flawed the Challenger launch decision. As documented by the presidential review commission, these were not errors arising from system complexities, but rather from the erosion of once-effective and redundant safety protocols. 

Space, space exploration and the benefits are not without risk. The risk is worth the reward however we should never sacrifice safety protocols and redundancy further the governments legislative branch has a responsibility of checks and balances in oversight to ensure safety is in place, contracts are not awarded unfairly and the value to the American people in life and treasure is never taken for granted.

Our hearts continue to bleed for the errors of that fateful day but our quest for what is out there amongst the stars should always continue…

A Photo of the Space Shuttle Challenger lifts off – January 26, 1986 seen on authorchrisedwards.com website.

Our heart pour out to our hero’s of the space program but our minds always look up and forward in the quest forward for what lies above us. We are not alone!

Alamogordo Chamber of Commerce Christmas Lights Contest Video featuring Roadrunner Emporium -Video created by Chris Edwards & Rene Sepulveda-authors, artists, coaching

Check out a few of the Alamogordo Christmas Lights contest entrants. From Cuba road to McKinley Avenue and beyond and the Winter in the Desert window display at Roadrunner Emporium, 928 New York Avenue, Alamogordo. All are officially entered in the Alamogordo Chamber of Commerce Christmas lights contest. 

Come check out each vía the attached video or do a Covid SAFE drive by. Locations for each are found 

Trail of Lights Holiday Contest Participants https://goo.gl/maps/TogBGmiYZQLk8o6N8

Come see our window display at 928 New York Avenue, Alamogordo, comment and like us on our and the Chambers Facebook page. Thanks and enjoy a natural Alamogordo lights and our Natural Desert Winter Holiday display..

 #roadrunneremporIum #AlamogordoMainStreet #2ndLifeMedia #ArtistReneSepulveda #AuthorChrisEdwards #ShopLocal #windowdisplay #ChristmasLights #AlamogordoChristmas #AlamogordoChamberOfCommerce #ShopAlamogordo #ShopNewYorkAve #AlamogordoArts