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Robertson alum Larry Chavez enters NMAA hall of fame

 

February 2, 2022



Las Vegas native and Robertson alumnus Larry Chavez will be joining an exclusive group later this year. He will become the 112th member of the New Mexico Activities Association Hall of Fame. Chavez also spent some of his career in Tucumcari.

Chavez retired in June as the district athletic director for Rio Rancho Public Schools. Prior to that, Chavez coached at Santa Rosa, Tucumcari and Cleveland High School, coaching cross country, baseball, basketball, and track and field in his Hall of Fame career.

Chavez’s name is synonymous with high school sports in the metro area, and in Rio Rancho specifically, as he became a staple in the area over the last 25 years. Now it has resulted in a Hall of Fame nod, something you never really see coming as a high school coach and athletic director.

“It’s really a huge honor, it’s one of the hall of fames that’s really difficult to get into,” Chavez said. “I just felt it was huge, it was a tribute to my family and their perseverance to allow me to carry out my career.”

The most lasting tangible impact of Chavez’s tenure as the athletic director in Rio Rancho is the cross-country state championships. Chavez led the charge in the mid-1990s to get the site of the state championships changed from Gallup to Rio Rancho, bringing the event to the metro area. Chavez succeeded in 1997, getting the event moved to his home turf, making it the first NMAA championship event held there.

That move had a lasting impact on New Mexico high school athletics in a clear way because cross country is now not the only state championship to be held in Rio Rancho; the volleyball and wrestling state championships are held in the city as well at the Rio Rancho Events Center. That accomplishment is one that as a fan or as somebody outside of the inner workings of athletics seems a little under the radar, but for an athletic director that is a huge accomplishment and victory.

“It was huge to bring the cross country meet from Gallup, the northwest corner that dominated cross country, and bring it into the metro area,” Chavez said. “I was very proud that we were the ones that were going to bring the meet to the metro area.”

Chavez was involved in high school athletics for 38 years, and you cannot do that without a love of sports and love for the kids that come through along the way.

Chavez first found his love of athletics in Las Vegas. He said growing up in Las Vegas and playing Little League baseball his goal was to be the next Bert Campaneris, who was the shortstop for the Oakland Athletics at the time.

Chavez did not end up becoming a major league shortstop, but he did play on the diamond for the Cardinals, and like so many others in Las Vegas past and present, he was out there playing multiple sports, also starring for the Cardinals on the track and the basketball court.

“Growing up in the ‘60s and ‘70s in Las Vegas there was no specialization, so you played everything,” Chavez said. “It was really a nice upbringing, and it made in my opinion a good well-rounded athlete … and I carried that on at Cleveland when I was the athletic director, I wanted to see our kids play more than one sport.”

That multi-sport ability translated to coaching, where Chavez coached basketball, baseball, track and field and cross country. It’s hard enough to be an effective coach at one sport, much less four, but Chavez was able to do that throughout his career before transitioning into his final role as an athletic director.

“High school athletics is all about the kids and building relationships with the kids,” Chavez said. “Too many times coaches are pigeonholed into ‘you’re a basketball coach,’ ‘you’re a baseball coach,’ ‘you can only coach track,’ but because of my upbringing and my background I was able to touch base with the athletes in several sports.”

While Larry is getting the Hall of Fame nod, he is not the only Chavez to have success in New Mexico high school athletics. His daughter Hilaree earned a track scholarship to Eastern New Mexico University at the conclusion of her high school career, and his three sons all were state champions, with his oldest, Larry, doing it on the track, the middle son Orlando winning titles in both baseball and football, while his youngest son Lawrence picked up a state championship in basketball. It’s safe to say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

While Chavez is retired, entering the Hall of Fame assures his legacy will never be forgotten. He helped grow athletics in Rio Rancho, and that impact is seen across all sports now where Cleveland and Rio Rancho high schools are powerhouses at the 5A and 6A level.

Chavez will be inducted into the NMAA Hall of Fame during the state basketball tournament in March. Ultimately, high school athletics are about the kids; that is what Chavez understood most as a coach and administrator, and it’s the biggest reason that he is a NMAA Hall of Famer.

 
 

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