STEVENS: Lobo Meet Is Like UNM Playing Duke in Hoops or USC in Football
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  01/23/2009
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Jan. 23, 2009

Lobo Track & Field
UNM Cherry & Silver Invitational
When: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday
Tickets: $5 (UNM students free with ID)

By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

If you are not a aficionado of track, a fanatic of field, you might not appreciate this indoor track spectacular that UNM coach Joe Franklin has put together for his Lobos. To give the meet some perspective, look at it like this:

It would be like Lobo football coach Mike Locksley bringing Florida State and Southern Cal into University Stadium.

It would be like Steve Alford bringing Duke and Kansas into The Pit, or like Don Flanagan landing Tennessee and Connecticut.

"That's exactly right, 100 percent correct," said Franklin. "To put it in perspective for the general reader, it's like playing men's basketball against Duke. How many times will Duke come and play in The Pit? It's not going to happen.

"That's the type of level we're at and to have those types of teams and athletes coming here to run against us is amazing. They are coming to our place to run in a very electric environment and there are certain events that are going to be unbelievable."

So, if you are a sports fan, or simply a Lobo fan, the Convention Center is the place to be Saturday. There will be 23 track events beginning at 9 a.m. and ending around 4 p.m. There will be 14 track events starting at 8 a.m. and ending around 2:30 p.m.

"It's going to be crazy," said Franklin, which is a Franklin-ism for there are going to be some outstanding competition at the Lobos' Cherry & Silver Indoor Invitational.

And this isn't just coach-speak. There will be 42 nationally-ranked collegiate athletes running or throwing something at the Cherry & Silver Meet including Lobos Jarrin Solomon (400m, 4x400 relay), Lee Emanuel (800m), Ariel Burr (400m/200m), Alesha Walker (long jump), Deanna Young (triple jump), and Sandy Fortner (long jump, 60m hurdles, shot put).

The collegiate competition will feature some of the best in the West, with the 10th-ranked BYU men, No. 15 Arizona women, No. 17 Stanford women, No. 19 Arizona men and No. 25 Stanford men leading the 11-team field. Division II power Adams State will also be in attendance, along with full squads from Cal, Colorado School of Mines (D-II), Houston, New Mexico State (women only), Portland State, UT-San Antonio, and host New Mexico.

"I'm really excited about this meet," said Solomon. "This is a big meet with a lot of great athletes. Maybe since the track wasn't here last year, fans aren't aware of the type of competition coming in, but it's outstanding."

Solomon, who red shirted the 2008 indoor season for a variety of reasons including injuries, said he is motivated for the 2009 season. "I'm healthy and I'm back in shape," he said. "This track is probably the nicest indoor track I've ever run on. It's fast and it's awesome to have it back."

The Lobos lost their indoor season in 2008 when the Convention Center booked a national bowling meet in the space usually used for the indoor track. Franklin said having the home facility back helps UNM in several areas.

"I think kids take things for granted when they are home all the time," he said. "Our kids spent a whole season traveling last year and I think they really appreciate being at home more. They missed a lot of school last year and this year we will only travel to two meets and only miss two Fridays of school."

Franklin also said the indoor facility is a great recruiting tool to throw at future Lobos. "We aren't going off to some race hoping we'll get into a certain race," he said. "We control all that and it's all a short drive from UNM."

True. And how often can a Lobo athlete drive a few blocks and play host to teams with track reputations that rival other-sport teams like Southern Cal, Kansas, Duke or Connecticut? Not very often, but they can do it on Saturday!

Note: National track and field website Flotrack.com will be in town all week, covering the New Mexico program and facility at the Albuquerque Convention Center. It's the first time Flotrack has ever traveled to New Mexico to cover a collegiate meet.