Feb. 10, 2012
By Mike Mulcahy
The University of New Mexico men's basketball team likes to use the phrase "a mile high and louder than..." to describe their home arena in The Pit.
And while not The Pit, the Albuquerque Convention Center might just be able to boast a similar slogan. It may not be "a mile high and louder than...", but perhaps "a mile high and faster than...". Or possibly "a mile high and farther than..." would be more precise. Or maybe even "a mile high and higher than..." could work.
Whichever expression the Convention Center decides is more appropriate, all three would be apt depictions of the performances showcased at the 2012 Don Kirby Invitational.
Competing against the likes of Texas, Florida, UCLA, Cal, Ohio State, Arizona State, Stanford, Texas Tech and Oregon, the University of New Mexico track and field team posted a number of the faster, higher, and farther performances at the Albuquerque Convention Center this Friday, including two new school records.
The first school record to be taken down was the nine-year-old record in the pole vault. Amber Menke's 13'-4.25" mark surpassed the old indoor record of 13'-2.5" set by Bridgid Isworth at the 2003 MWC Championships. It even bested the outdoor record in the pole vault, a 13'-3.75" mark registered by current Lobo Margo Tucker at last year's Texas Relays.
"I just picked up my pole and went and it felt pretty good," Menke said after her record-setting vault. "I think the best part, though, was that it was a personal best."
The other school record that was broken wasn't set just once this evening, but twice. Beejay Lee initially broke the old school record in the 60m, running a raw 6.72 time in the preliminary run that eclipsed the 6.77 altitude-adjusted mark belonging to current Lobo Lamaar Thomas. However, in the finals of the event, Lee blazed down the straightaway, notching a 6.67 mark that rewrote the record books.
"I've had a couple challenging races the past few weeks, but this field being the most elite throughout the country was going to help me and pull to get a better time this weekend," noted Lee after his race.
But that wasn't the only success the Lobos had at this high-octane event, as New Mexico posted 20 top-ten finishes and seven all-time top-10 marks in six different events.
For the men's track events, the mid-distance races produced some of the fastest results. In the 600m, James Senior's 1:20.82 time secured the title, and in the 800m, Gabe Aragon (1:49.98 raw) and JP Cordova (1:53.57 raw) went second and third, respectively.
The 4x400m relay teams also had solid times, as the A team of Gizeh Ibañez, Thomas Trujillo, Richard York and Gabe Aragon finished eighth and the B team of Derek Montoya, JP Cordova, Chad Clark and James Senior went four ninth.
In the long jump, the Lobos had solid success, going farther and farther into the record books. Junior Kendall Spencer posted a 24'-4.25" long jump to win third and notch another top-15 all-time mark in the long jump. Also in the long jump was decathlon specialist Richard York, whose 22'-2.25" mark was good for ninth.
In the triple jump, junior Floyd Ross tallied a seasonal best 51'5" mark, placing him third. His mark also made him the fourth best Lobo ever in the triple jump.
On the women's side, there was only 15 Lobos competing, but despite the small size, New Mexico still registered strong results.
Shirley Pitts' come-from-behind victory in the 400m was good for fifth, as her 54.78 raw time falls second all-time, breaking her own record. "As soon as the gun went off, I knew I had to go. And I just felt really good and strong," Pitts said.
However, in the spirit of "a mile high and faster/farther/higher than...", a handful of other athletes from other institutions had impressive performances.
Florida's Jeff Demps tied the fastest time in the world this year in the 60m with a 6.55 raw time after tallying the second-best mark in the prelims race. In the women's 60m, English Gardner of Oregon ran the fastest time in the year in the 60m with a 7.20 raw time.
Unattached runner Gil Roberts broke his own world-leading mark in the 400m with a 45.39 raw time. Ohio State's Thomas Murdaugh claimed first in the NCAA this year in the 400m with a 46.33 raw time.
Michael Woepse of UCLA and Nick Frawley formerly of the Air Force Academy tied for second in the nation collegiately this year in the pole vault with a 18'-.0.5".
The Florida 4x400m relay team's 3:33.22 mark was also good for first in the nation.
The Lobos have a week off as they prepare for the Mountain West Indoor Track and Field Championships here in Albuquerque Feb. 23-25. Also check back tomorrow for the full recap and complete results for the Lobo distance runners out in Seattle for the Husky Classic.