When: Friday-Saturday, Feb. 14-15, 2014
Where: Albuquerque Convention Center in Albuquerque, N.M.
Live Results: LiveRunningResults.com
During the last four weeks, the University of New Mexico Indoor track team has hosted four straight stacked competitions.
But, this fifth week might just be the best.
The Lobos are hosting a top-notch field at the Don Kirby Elite Invitational Friday and Saturday, as it faces a number of nationally ranked teams and athletes in an NCAA-caliber environment.
With the Albuquerque and UNM-hosted NCAA Championships just over a month away, the Lobos know this meet is one of their final chances to register strong marks and make a case for the NCAAs.
“We’ve got to get some people qualified for the national championships,” New Mexico head coach Joe Franklin said. “... If they compete within their races and their events, we’re going to have some people that hit some big marks.”
The Lobos will definitely have to compete this weekend, considering the quality of competition coming to the Albuquerque Convention Center.
Eight men’s teams are ranked in the top 25 by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association, while seven women’s squads own that distinction.
The No. 3 Oregon men headline the men’s competition, which also includes No. 8 Arizona, No. 12 UTEP, No. 14 Arizona State, No. 20 Stanford, No. 21 Akron, No. 24 USC and No. 25 Mississippi.
The women’s field features the second-ranked Ducks of Oregon, along with No. 9 Stanford, No. 13 UCLA, No. 18 Michigan, No. 20 Akron, No. 21 Arizona State and No. 23 Arizona.
“Again, for the fifth weekend in a row, we’ve had the best competition in the country come in, and this is no different,” Franklin said.
This level of competition would indicate some strong performances for New Mexico, as they’ve been able to acquit themselves well throughout the season.
“Our expectation is very high, so I think when we compete against these teams … it changes our level of expectation,” Franklin said.
And with a high level of expectations all season, the Lobos have been able to make some claims to advancing to the NCAAs.
The top 16 athletes (and top 12 relay teams) in the nation qualify to the national championships, and the Lobos have nine athletes in the top 25 in the nation in their respective events.
Subsequently, the Lobos are looking to translate this meet into a springboard for the NCAAs.
One group eyeing the postseason is the Lobos’ bunch of top-notch jumpers, which features five top-40 athletes.
Jannell Hadnot, the 11th-best triple jumper in the NCAA, leads the women’s jumpers, which also features Yeshemabet Turner (36th in the triple jump and 55th in the long jump), Casey Dowling and Aasha Marler.
The women’s pole vaulters, including Margo Tucker, Nathalie Busk, Annie Stirling and Emily Heisler, rank 3-4-5-6 in the Mountain West and are entered in possibly the most competitive event at the meet. Indoor world record-holder Jenn Suhr in entered in the event, as are five of the top 10 professional vaulters in the US.
A pair of nationally ranked high jumpers are also entered for UNM, with 51st-ranked Samantha Bowe for the women and 31st-ranked Django Lovett for the men. Markus Miller, fifth in the Mountain West, is also competing.
The track events are another area New Mexico is looking to for potential qualifying times.
Ridge Jones (23rd in the 60-meter dash) leads the men in the short sprints, as he takes aim in the 60 and 200. Joining him will be Kendall Spencer and Jhurell Pressley in the 60 and Mustafa Mudada and Carlos Wiggins in the 200.
Additionally, the women’s sprinters are primed for a strong showing, with Marler, Peri Moran and Kayla Fisher-Taylor scheduled to run in the 60. Fisher-Taylor will also compete in the 200, while the women’s 400 will feature Hannah Riker-Urrutia, Lucretia Vigil, Kelsi Lewis and Ariel Burch.
Roggatz and Holly Van Grinsven will also compete in the hurdles.
The distance events could also see good times, despite having a portion of the team traveling to Seattle for the Husky Classic.
For the women, Amber Zimmerman and Suzi Boast will run in the 800 and the mile, while Nicole Roberts, Tamara Armoush, Kirsten Follett, Nicola Hood and Calli Thackery are slated to compete in the mile.
The men’s distance races will showcase Gabe Aragon, Ross Matheson and Jake Shelley in the 800, with Shelley, Matheson, Elmar Engholm, Donovan Torres, Graham Thomas and Alex Cornwell entered in the mile.
Currently, the Lobo women check in with a No. 3 ranking in the Women's Mountain Region Index that was released by the USTFCCCA on Tuesday. The Lobo men are ranked fourth in the men's version of the same rankings.
Nationally, the UNM men are ranked 39th, the highest among all of the other men’s programs in the Mountain West.
The meet starts Friday at 4 p.m. MT, and is followed up Saturday at 10:30 a.m. Check liverunningresults.com throughout the meet for live results and GoLobos.com after the meet Saturday for a full recap.