May 11, 2005
UPCOMINGThe University of New Mexico track and field team opens the championship portion of its schedule this week when it travels to Fort Collins, Colo. for the 2005 Mountain West Conference Men's and Women's Outdoor Championships. The four-day meet begins Wednesday, May 11 with the men's decathlon and women's heptathlon and continues through Saturday, May 14, at the Jack Christiansen Track (elevation: 5,081 feet).
Weather could play a factor in some of the performances early in the week as Colorado State University hosts the MWC Outdoor Championships for the first time. A storm front is expected to move through Fort Collins on Wednesday and Thursday, dropping temperatures into the mid-40s and bringing the possibility of rain and snow showers. Fortunately, the weather is expected to improve on Friday and Saturday as the main track and field competition gets underway. New Mexico last competed at CSU during the 2003 season when it joined the field of the Jack Christiansen Invitational.
The New Mexico men have finished fourth at the MWC Outdoor Championships each of the last four years, scoring 94.5 points last spring in Las Vegas. The Lobo men had four athletes earn all-MWC honors last year, including 5,000-meter champion Matt Gonzales and high jump winner Hank Baskett, and scored in 17 of the 19 events in which they competed. The UNM women, meanwhile, earned all-conference honors in four events in 2004, including victories by Amanda Barnes (shot put) and Bridgid Isworth (pole vault), but finished eighth (46 points) for the first time at the MWC championships.
BYU's men have yet to be defeated in five outdoor championship meets, winning by an average margin of 69 points. The Cougar women had their string of three straight league titles snapped by San Diego State two years ago in Albuquerque, but downed the Aztecs by 68 points to win their fourth MWC crown in 2004.
UNM had a well-deserved break from competition last week after enjoying one of the best weekend's of head coach Matt Henry's five-year tenure while competing at home in the Modrall Sperling Don Kirby Memorial Invitational (April 30) and Stanford's Cardinal Invitational (May 1). The Lobos recorded season-best times/marks in 16 events at the Don Kirby Invitational, including 10 on the women's side. Matt Gonzales then recorded the fastest 10,000-meter time in MWC history on Sunday night in Stanford.
MEET INFORMATION/RESULTSComplete information and results from the 2005 Mountain West Conference Outdoor Championships will be available on the official website of the Mountain West Conference:
NEW MEXICO AT THE MWC OUTDOOR CHAMPIONSHIPSUnder fifth-year head coach Matt Henry, the Lobo men have been steadily returning to the high levels of performance they were accustomed to throughout the 1970s and `80s. Since the 2001 New Mexico has averaged 100.5 points at the MWC Outdoor Championship meets. The Lobos scored an average of 37 points in the 10 years (1991-2000) before Henry's arrival, including a mere 12-point average from 1992-2000. In 2002, Henry was named Mountain West Conference Men's Outdoor Coach of the Year after leading the Lobos to 125.5 points, the most since tallying 127 at the 1989 Western Athletic Conference Championships. Hank Baskett (high jump - `04), Mark Johnson (decathlon - 2002), Matt Gonzales (5,000 - `04) and Ben Ortega (10,000 - 2001) have each earned gold medals at the MWC Outdoor meet and have helped New Mexico earn all-MWC honors 27 times over the past four years.
Though a lack of depth has hampered their team scoring efforts in recent years, the UNM women have captured at least one event title each of the past six seasons and seven of the past eight years. New Mexico's women have stood atop the awards podium eight times at the MWC Outdoor Championships and have earned all-MWC honors 22 times since the inaugural league championship meet in 2000. Current senior Amanda Barnes is the two-time defending outdoor shot put champion (2003-04), while Monique Harris won the MWC triple jump three straight years (2000-02). Arline Smith swept the 200 and 400 in 2001 and Bridgid Isworth won the pole vault in 2004.
SCOUTING THE LOBOSWOMEN
Heptathlon - Sophomore Stefany Setliff is the lone Lobo entered in the heptathlon, but has not competed in the two-day event since placing eighth (4,433 pts.) at last year's outdoor championship meet.
100m - Freshman Kristan Matison owns the third-fastest seed time and appears to be rounding into top form as she enters the meet, despite a some nagging pain in her hamstring and knee. The daughter of two-time UNM All-American René Matison is the Lobos' best 100-meter threat in four years and could be the first Lobo woman ever to earn all-MWC honors in the event.
200m - Junior Kimilia Davis and Matison give the Lobos a solid 1-2 punch in the 200, where they are seeded fourth and seventh, respectively. Davis placed eighth in the 200 at last year's meet and is a strong all-MWC candidate. Both women recorded career-best times in the event two weeks ago.
400m - Freshman Ariel Burr is the fifth seed in the 400 (55.19) and has lowered her time in each race this spring. The native of tiny Carrizozo, N.M. has been undaunted by Division I competition this year, recording two victories and a solid fourth place finish in a strong field at UCSD's Triton Invitational. Davis, meanwhile, is seeded eighth, but has not yet reached her peak in the event. She finished seventh in at last year's outdoor championships after clocking a career-best 55.28 to advance to the finals.
800m - Sophomore Riann Lucy is the No. 7 seed (2:10.36) and the best 800-meter threat head coach Matt Henry has ever had on the women's side. A sixth place finisher each of the past two years at the indoor meet, Lucy will look to be the first UNM woman to score in the event outdoors since the 1999 WAC Championships.
1,500m - no competitors.
5,000m - Junior Jacquelyne Gallegos owns the fourth-fastest seed time and has won two straight races since being sidelined by an iron deficiency in mid-April. Gallegos earned all-MWC honors in the 1,500 last year by finishing third, eight spots higher than her seed, and could find her way into the NCAA Midwest Regional field with a strong performance. She finished ninth in the 5K at the 2005 indoor championships after contracting a stomach virus shortly before the race.
100m Hurdles - Setliff and rookie Haily Lee will compete in the event, but are not expected to reach the finals. 400m Hurdles - Lee is the Lobos' top competitor in the 400 hurdles and has steadily improved each week throughout the season. Seeded 11th, she is a dark horse candidate to reach the event finals.
3,000m Steeplechase - Freshman Stasia Ploskonka is the best among the three Lobos who have ever competed in the five-year-old event, but she will have her work cut out for her against an elite field of runners in the conference.
4x100m Relay - It's been five years since New Mexico earned all-MWC honors in the 4x100 relay, but the team of Davis, Burr, Matison and fellow freshman Tabatha Shaw appears to be hitting on all cylinders. The foursome enters the weekend seeded fourth, but is riding a three-meet winning streak and has not lost since April 2.
4x400m Relay - UNM has its best mile relay team since the 2000 season with the group of Davis, Lucy, Burr and sophomore Brandie Mills ranked fifth in the league. However, Mills is nursing an injury and may be replaced by hurdler Haily Lee.
High Jump - Freshman Tiyana Peters will be making her MWC Championships debut after redshirting the indoor season. She owns the sixth-best mark (5-07.00) entering the meet, but is still rounding into form after jumping 5-08.00 as a prep.
Pole Vault - Freshman Whitney Johnson has already qualified for the Midwest Regional Championships and is tied for the No. 2 seed at the MWC Outdoor meet with a top mark of 12-11.50. Senior transfer Katie Coles is ranked fifth with a top mark of 12-02.00, giving the Lobos a pair of 12-foot vaulters for the first time in school history. Johnson was third at the indoor MWC Championships with a career-best vault of 13-00.25. UNM has had a finalist in the event outdoors each of the past three years, including Bridgid Isworth who won the event in 2004 and tied for first in `03.
Long Jump - Setliff will compete in the long jump, but is not expected to be in the scoring mix.
Triple Jump - Sophomore Jai McBride, the Lobos' lone competitor, is out for the season with an ankle injury after placing eighth indoors. Shot Put - Senior Amanda Barnes is the two-time defending champion outdoors and is the MWC record holder in the shot put. She is currently ranked second in the Midwest Region and has won the event five times this spring. Her top mark of 52-09.50 is nearly six feet beyond the next seeded competitor, but CSU's Loree Smith, ranked 10th in the country by Trackwire, is slated to make her season debut in the event this weekend after winning the 2005 indoor title with a MWC record throw of 56-03.00. Barnes prevented Smith's sweep of the throwing events at the 2004 outdoor meet with a narrow victory in the shot put.
Discus - Barnes burst onto the scene in the discus two weeks ago with a career-best and NCAA Midwest Regional qualifying throw of 166-11. She is seeded fourth in the MWC, five spots ahead of junior teammate Jamie Fishencord (152-10). Fishencord became the first UNM woman ever to score in the discus at the MWC Championships with a seventh place finish last spring.
Hammer - After a sluggish start to the season, Fishencord is peaking at the perfect time in her specialty, the hammer throw. She smashed her own school record with a toss of 192-06 in her last competition, which ranks third in the MWC and sixth in the Midwest Region. Barnes also has an outside chance to score in the event, entering the meet seeded 11th with a career-best mark of 167-05. Javelin - Senior Veronica R. Gonzales, an all-MWC honoree last year and two-time Midwest Regional qualifier, has not been defeated since April 8 and owns the No. 2 seed (150-07), only behind the nation's top-ranked competitor, Dana Pounds of Air Force. Junior Jessica McIntyre has shown flashes as well this season and enters the weekend seeded fifth with a regional qualifying mark of 144-10, which she recorded on March 19.
Decathlon - Junior Dan Feltman is the league's top-ranked decathlete this spring after placing fourth in 2004. Currently ranked 12th in the country with a career-best score of 7,278, Feltman will look to be the Lobos' second decathlon champion in the last four years. New Mexico could get a scoring boost from freshman Derek McDonald and senior Jason Bigott, who placed fifth and seventh, respectively, at the indoor championships. Both men will be making their collegiate debuts in the decathlon. UNM has averaged 10.7 points in the decathlon over the past three years.
100m - UNM has suddenly emerged as major presence in the 100 with four athletes seeded among the top-7 this weekend. Senior Ahmed Raji appears to be rounding back into shape after redshirting the 2004 season and is ranked third. Lobo wide receivers Marcus Smith and Aaron Brack clocked the fourth and seventh-fastest times, respectively, in their collegiate debuts on April 30, while sophomore Jeramie White is seeded sixth after just missing the league finals last spring. A UNM athlete has finished fourth or higher in the 100 each of the past three years.
200m - Raji just missed the MWC 200-meter title in 2003, placing second with a career-best time of 20.95. This year he is seeded second (21.59), behind Air Force freshman Travis Picou, who Raji edged to win the event two weeks ago in Albuquerque. White enters the weekend ranked seventh, while Smith could be a darkhorse finals candidate in his first 200 race.
400m - Rookie Jarrin Solomon, the son of former UNM national champion Michael Solomon, has taken the league by storm, shaving over a second off his time over the past two weeks to a career-best 47.31. Ranked second in the MWC behind BYU senior David Chesser (46.75), Solomon, who placed eight in the event indoors, is the Lobos' best 400-meter threat in four years and will look to become the first UNM conference champion in the event since 1991.
800m - Freshman phenom Shadrack Kiptoo-Biwott's victory over defending indoor and outdoor champion Jeremiah Johnson (Wyoming) two weeks ago gave the Lobos a huge boost in the event. While his time of 1:51.39 is ranked sixth in the league, Kiptoo-Biwott has already proven to be one of the MWC's top competitors and a run at all-MWC honors is not out of the question.
1,500m - BYU's Bryan Lindsay is one of the best in the nation, but New Mexico could tally a solid point total in the event with senior All-American Matt Gonzales (No. 2 seed - 3:43.31) dropping down to run his second 1,500 of the year and Kiptoo-Biwott (No. 6 seed - 3:46.53) just off the all-MWC pace. Senior Nick Martinez could also work his way into the finals with a strong run.
5,000m - Gonzales is the defending champion in the event and the best 5,000-meter runner in New Mexico and Mountain West Conference history. Josh Rohatinsky of BYU could challenge for the title, but Gonzales will be the clear favorite. Martinez placed sixth in the event last year and has excellent scoring potential, but the Lobos will miss the presence of injured senior Ben Ortega, the indoor 5K champ who owned the league's sixth-best time outdoors.
10,000m - With the loss of Ortega, a two-time all-MWC honoree in the event, the Lobos will look to rookie Joseph Garcia to provide some scoring punch in his first career 10K.
100m Hurdles - New Mexico boasts four quality athletes in the high hurdles field and will be looking to send at least a pair into the finals for the first time since 2002. Sophomore transfer Mark Lamb is ranked fifth in the league, while Derek McDonald is eighth. Fellow decathlete Dan Feltman is seeded 10th, just ahead of junior Jon-Paul Barabe (11th).
400m Hurdles - Lamb is the Lobos' top threat in the 400 hurdles and will be looking for a solid performance to improve on his No. 9 seed and advance to the finals.
3,000m Steeplechase - Senior Nate Clem got his feet wet in the steeplechase two weeks ago in Albuquerque. The Lobos will be counting on him to drop his time and slip into the top-8 in the second steeplechase race of his career.
4x100m Relay - New Mexico owns the second-best seed, but sprints coach Mark Henry will send out a new starting four of Raji, Smith, Solomon and White as the Lobos look to return to the all-MWC podium for the third time in the past four years. UNM has never finished higher than third at the MWC Championships.
4x400m Relay - UNM has earned all-conference honors three times in the past four years and enters the meet ranked third in the league. The team of Randle McCain, Solomon, Kurt Henry and White won its only race together four weeks ago.
High Jump - Former Lobo basketball player Alfred Neale was the league's third-ranked high jump competitor, but has moved on to pursue his career on the hardwood. Freshman Derek McDonald, the No. 6 seed, will be the only UNM competitor this weekend, but could provide a nice scoring punch.
Pole Vault - The Mountain West Conference is the top pole vaulting league in the nation with six athletes clearing the 17 foot mark this spring. Lobo junior Derek Mackel is a rags-to-riches story who has emerged from marginal walk-on to the No. 4 seed in the conference with a top mark of 17-08.50. While inconsistent at times, Mackel burst onto the scene during the indoor season, earning all-MWC honors with a third place finish. Sophomore Robert Caldwell is also enjoying a career-year and is seeded sixth with a personal record vault of 17-00.75. Freshman Zach Graham, the No. 9 seed, cleared the 16 foot mark in his last meet and could slip into scoring position.
Long Jump - The Lobos have three athletes ranked among the top-9 in the long jump. McDonald owns the third-best mark, while fellow decathlete Feltman is seeded eighth. Freshman Domnick Meadows could also work his way into the scoring eight, while dangerous veteran Willie Yuen lurks in the No. 12 spot.
Triple Jump - Yuen is a five-time MWC indoor/outdoor triple jump finalist and appears to be healthy again after struggling with injury throughout the season. Yuen is ranked fifth in the league, just ahead of Meadows. Both men turned in their best performance of the year two weeks ago in Albuquerque and could give UNM a real boost in the event. McDonald is also slated to compete in what would be his 14th event of the weekend.
Shot Put - Senior Jordan Parker is New Mexico's top threat in the throwing events. Already a Midwest Regional qualifier, Parker enters the meet ranked fourth after redshirting the 2004 season. He will be looking to join former teammate Jason Barkemeyer as the only Lobos ever to earn all-MWC honors in the event after placing eighth indoors in 2003.
Discus - After enduring a bit of a slump in the discus, Parker exploded with a career-best throw of 171 feet to secure the fifth seed this weekend. New Mexico has not scored in both the discus and shot put in the same season since 2002. Parker advanced to discus finals two years ago, but finished ninth.
Hammer - No competitors.
Javelin - Since 2001, New Mexico has had at least two finalists and averaged 12 points in the javelin. The Lobos have also had an all-MWC honoree three of the last four years. Feltman has been the Lobos top threat this spring and enters the meet seeded fourth with a career-best throw of 198-07. Junior Matt Keeran, the No. 6 seed, earned all-MWC honors two years ago with a throw of 206-06, but is still looking to regain his form after undergoing elbow surgery last spring. Fellow junior Reuben Trujillo placed sixth at the MWC meet in 2003 and is seeded eighth this year.