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Roybal resigns from Pojoaque for health reasons

Jun. 10—Cindy Roybal said her mind and will are still strong, but it's her body that is struggling with the demands of running a girls basketball program.

So, the legendary head coach who has spent 46 years at the high school and collegiate levels said she tendered her resignation Friday as the head coach at Pojoaque Valley after just one season.

Roybal said she was dealing with some health issues that prompted her decision, and it might be permanent.

"It was very difficult," Roybal said. "That's why I waited. If I wouldn't have been ready, I would have let Mark know immediately after the season was over. But, physically, I wasn't quite right."

Roybal leaves after turning the Elkettes around from a 9-18 record in the 2022-23 season to a 15-14 mark and a share of the District 2-4A title.

Pojoaque athletic director Mark Mutz said Roybal reached out to him Friday by and through text message, informing him of her resignation. She also submitted an email explaining her decision.

"I will always be grateful to you for having confidence in me," Roybal wrote. "I will always support Pojoaque athletics."

Mutz said Roybal's assistant coaches will handle summer duties, such as open gym and camps until a replacement is found.

If this is her last season, Roybal will leave a remarkable legacy. She holds a 403-137 record as a prep coach, with two stints at Pojoaque and Santa Fe Indian School as well as single stops at St. Catherine, the Institute of American Indian Arts, St. Michael's, Española Valley and Santa Fe High in a career that began in 1978.

She led SFIS to three straight Class 3A championship appearances from 2010 to '12, with the Lady Braves winning consecutive titles in 2010 and '11.

In between her high school career, Roybal spent 17 years as the head women's basketball coach at New Mexico Highlands University from 1986-2002. The Cowgirls won 228 games during her tenure to go along with two Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference titles, a berth in the NAIA National Tournament and an NCAA Division II Tournament appearance.

Along the way, Roybal has been inducted into the New Mexico Sports Hall of Fame and the New Mexico High School Coaches Association's Hall of Honor. She also was a part of a group of more than 70 former members of the All-American Red Heads representing the organization when it was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 2012. She played for the traveling team in 1972.

Roybal said that experience helped shape her future, as she was disillusioned during her time at Pecos High School because it did not have girls basketball as a sport.

"I was like, 'Now I know what I wanna do,'" Roybal said. "I knew I wanted to give girls the opportunity I never had. So I came, went to college and the rest is history."

Roybal said she has no regrets about her career, and feels she is a pioneer in girls athletics in the state. However, she added that she was disappointed for rising senior Lauren Salazar, who played a key part in Pojoaque's turnaround, and for the junior varsity players who made significant improvement throughout the season.

"I'm very sad for people like Lauren that I have to leave because I just thought she was gonna blossom," Roybal said. "What am I saying? She already had blossomed, but I thought, 'OK, she's gonna be amazing and some of the other girls, too.'

"It makes me sad, but they also understood."

Roybal's departure leaves three head-coaching vacancies at the school. Joe Rodriguez resigned as volleyball coach in May after six seasons. Pojoaque went 12-11 last season and finished second in District 2-4A. Mutz said the school is in the process of interviewing candidates and should have an announcement shortly.

Mutz added that Johnny Tapia will not be returning as head wrestling coach and the position is open to applications.