ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Lobos, on their home track in front of a hometown crowd, know how to compete in Albuquerque.
Their results proved that.
Behind scoring efforts from Luke Caldwell and Kendall Spencer, the University of New Mexico registered a strong showing on the first day of the UNM- and Albuquerque-hosted 2014 NCAA Division I Men's and Women's Indoor Track and Field Championships.
Adam Bitchell and Elmar Engholm also paced the Lobos with superb performances at the hometown national championships, as all four Lobos competing this weekend made their marks Friday at the Albuquerque Convention Center.
“It’s been a great day, not only for the Lobos, but the crowd’s been phenomenal,” UNM head coach Joe Franklin said. “It’s been electric in here. You’ve seen collegiate records. I’m super happy for everyone. It’s just good day.”
In front of an announced crowd of nearly a thousand people that grew during the day, New Mexico saw multiple record fall throughout the day, including Caldwell’s record-breaking run in the men’s 5,000-meter run.
The Betchworth, England, senior set a new personal and school record via his sixth-place effort in the 5000. His time, 13 minutes, 34.54 seconds converted for altitude, also earned him a fifth overall All-American plaudit between cross-country and track.
“I’m pleased I scored some points and got another All-American,” Caldwell said.
His time gave him the three fastest 5K times in school history.
Bitchell was right behind his teammate, finishing in ninth place with an altitude-converted time of 13:47.87. The senior out of Aberystwyth, Wales, challenged for a top-10 finish, crossing the line with the ninth-fastest time in New Mexico history.
“I pushed hard to try to get that All-American place, but just didn't quite happen in the end,” Bitchell said. “Great race to be a part of, and I’m just really happy to be here representing the Lobos at the home track”
The race, featuring Oregon freshman Edward Cheserek and Arizona senior Lawi Lalang was expected to be a relatively slow race with Lalang — less than two hours off of racing in the preliminary round of the mile — vying for an unprecedented title sweep in the mile, 3000 and 5000.
However, the race ended up going faster than either Lobo anticipated, with Cheserek winning in 13:46.67.
“It was fast, which I wasn’t especially expecting,” Caldwell said. “… I’m glad I gave it a go.”
Nonetheless, Caldwell and Bitchell are the first pair of teammates in UNM and Mountain West history to place top-10 in the 5000 at the indoor national championship.
Spencer nabbed his own All-American honor in the long jump Friday evening, as he leaped to an eighth-place distance of 25 feet, 1 ¾ inches.
“It’s great to be able to start my team off in a great direction and to be one of the first guys out there and finishing in the top-eight in the country,” Spencer said. “I’ll take it.”
The San Mateo, Calif., senior put together one of his most complete performances in the long jump since he won the NCAA indoor long jump title two years ago. After fouling all three attempts at last year’s championships, the three-time NCAA qualifier moved back into the All-American conversation.
He started off the event notching his eighth-place mark, which he duplicated on his first jump in the finals. His final mark was just two centimeters off that distance, as well.
“The first objective in any long-jump mark is to get a solid mark down, and I did that.” he said. “My goal coming in here was to make it to finals and just really take it from there and see what happens.”
At the end of day, he earned his second All-American nod, making him just the second UNM field athlete to accomplish that along with former teammate and triple jumper Floyd Ross.
The final Lobos result from the day (and the meet) came from Engholm, who ran his second sub-four-minute mile in the last month.
The Stockholm freshman clocked an altitude-converted time of 3:59.71 in the preliminary round of the men’s mile, finishing eighth in the first heat and eighth overall.
Despite placing the top half of the 16-athlete prelims, Engholm wasn’t able to achieve the requisite standards to advance — a top-four heat finish or one of the next two fastest times — and subsequently didn’t advance.
“[He was just] kind of in the wrong spot in the wrong time and just couldn’t get there,” Franklin said. “[He] ran a great race.”
Still, Engholm joined two-time NCAA mile champion Lee Emanuel as the only Lobo to run at least two sub-four-minute miles, as his NCAA-qualifying mark was 3:58.90.
With the conclusion of Friday’s event, the Lobos have wrapped up their indoor season and will play NCAA Championships hosts Saturday. New Mexico returns to action with the outdoor season the last weekend of this month.