Cross County Aiming for Top Finishes at Notre Dame
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  10/02/2013

Notre Dame Invitational — South Bend, Ind.

When/Where: Friday, Notre Dame Golf Course in South Bend, Ind.
Women: 2:15 p.m. MT — five miles
Men: 3 p.m. MT — five kilometers
Results: GoLobos.com

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The road to the national championships starts at Notre Dame.

The University of New Mexico's nationally ranked cross country teams are aiming to strengthen their postseason credentials Friday at the Notre Dame Invitational in South Bend, Ind. The No. 15 women will compete Friday at 2:15 p.m. MT, and the No. 21 men at 3 p.m. MT.

Now that meet results start counting toward NCAA Championships bids, the Lobos are heading to Notre Dame to pick up wins against other ranked teams in order to build a championships-caliber resume.

“It’s time to see how we are and see if we’re making the right progress,” head coach Joe Franklin said.”I think [we expect] to get done what you need to get done to get to the national championships.”

Franklin, who is taking his Lobos back to South Bend for the sixth straight year, and the Lobos know that picking up victories early in the season is key to a successful postseason run.

“They have very high goals,” Franklin said of his runners. “But for a lot of these teams, it’s their first race.”

Most of the runners competing this Friday at the Notre Dame Golf Course, including almost all of the Lobos, are making their season debuts.

But in spite of the cobwebs (which Franklin said will be a factor), he knows New Mexico needs to show up ready to compete.

“So you’re going against of bunch of people who haven’t raced,” he said. “Well, you better be competitive. It’s not like they’re that much more race-ready.”

The Lobos will face some staunch — and likely race-ready — opponents Friday.

The men's 5-mile race features nine nationally ranked teams, including three top-20 squads, while the women's 8-kilometer run has seven teams in the national polls, including No. 2 Florida State and No. 4 Duke.

However, nationally ranked New Mexico has a talented mix of veterans and newcomers that are aiming to showcase their skills and race-readiness.

2012 All-American Luke Caldwell led the men at this meet last year, and will look to duplicate those results that he parlayed into a MW Athlete of the Week nod.

Seniors Adam Bitchell, Sean Stam and Patrick Zacharias and sophomore Elmar Engholm are also making a return trip, as the men aim to outdo their sixth-place finish from a year ago.

UK transfer Alex Cornwell and redshirt freshman Graham Thomas will also run for the Lobos.

On the women’s side, the Lobos will have senior Charlotte Arter and Kirsten Follett returning to Notre Dame, where the women claimed third as team in 2012.

However, this race will feature a number of New Mexico newcomers, with Tamara Armoush, Nicole Roberts, Sammy Silva, Heleene Tambet, Calli Thackery, Alice Wright and Amber Zimmerman making their UNM debut this weekend.

Armoush, Roberts, Thackery and Wright are UK imports, while Tambet comes from Estonia. Silva (Harvard) and Zimmerman (Tennessee) are transfers from within the US.

Nonetheless, Franklin doesn’t think the new atmosphere of elite NCAA racing will faze the newcomers on either side.

“I know that’ll give everything they can, I know that they’ll run hard and I know that they’ll compete well,” he said.

The Lobos have had considerable success at the Notre Dame Invitational since they started competing there in 2008. Since then, New Mexico has never finished out of the top ten at the Invitational and has placed better than fifth overall on five occasions (2009-10 men, 2010-12 women). In 2012, the men placed sixth while the women finished third.

Check back Friday evening on GoLobos.com for meet results and a New Mexico recap.