Pole Vaulters To Represent New Mexico At NCAA Championship Meet
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  03/08/2006
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

March 8, 2006

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For the first time since 1990, the University of New Mexico will send a pair of athletes to the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships. Fifth-year senior Derek Mackel and junior Robert Caldwell make their NCAA Championship meet debuts in the men's pole vault on Friday, March 10, marking the first time two Lobos have ever competed in the same event at the national indoor meet. Mackel (Albuquerque Sandia HS) and Caldwell (Socorro, N.M.) are the only athletes from New Mexico universities competing at the NCAA meet. The event is scheduled to begin at 4:35 p.m. (MST) at the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville, Ark.

Mackel, who was one of the last men's pole vaulters left out of the NCAA Indoor Championship field last year, enters the 2006 meet with the seventh-best mark in the country, clearing 17' 11" in the Modrall Sperling Lobo Invitational on Jan. 21 at the Albuquerque Convention Center. Caldwell is tied for 11th in the nation with a top mark of 17' 7.25", which he recorded en route to a second place finish at the Mountain West Conference Championship meet two weeks ago in Albuquerque. Friday will mark just the second time the Lobos have vaulted on the road this winter.


Results: Live meet results will be available online at www.ncaasports.com and www.ladybacks.com.

Schedule: Caldwell and Mackel compete in the men's pole vault at 4:35 p.m. (MST) on Friday, March 10. The event should last approximately one hour.

Two At The NCAA Indoor Championships: This is the first time two UNM athletes have qualified for the NCAA Indoor Championship meet since 1990 when pole vaulter Simon Arkell and weight thrower Darren Crawford made the field. New Mexico and Texas Tech are the only schools with two athletes in the men's pole vault field.

In the last four years under head coach Matt Henry, New Mexico has sent three men and one woman to the indoor championships. UNM went nine years without a single indoor national qualifier between 1994 and 2002.

Two In The Same Event: UNM has never had two athletes compete in the same event at the NCAA Indoor meet and it's only happened four times at the outdoor national championships. It's been thirty years since two Lobos competed in the same event at an NCAA Championship meet. In 1976, Michael Solomon and Charles Dramiga both earned All-America honors in the 400 at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.

UNM Indoor All-Americans: Thirteen individuals and four relay teams have combined to earn indoor All-American honors 21 times since Clark Mitchell (600y) became the first in 1967. Current head coach Matt Henry earned All-America honors in 1972 as part of the Lobos' two-mile relay team.

UNM athletes have also won three NCAA event titles indoors. Charles Dramiga and Michael Solomon won back-to-back NCAA 600-yard crowns in 1976 and `77 and the team of Jay Quade, Mark Romero, Jeremiah Ongwae and Sam Kipkurgat brought home the two-mile relay championship in `78.

Santa Fe native Matt Gonzales finished fourth in the 5,000-meter run last year to become the first UNM indoor All-American since 1990 when Darren Crawford finished third in the weight throw.

UNM Pole Vaulters At The NCAA Championships: New Mexico has now qualified three pole vaulters to the NCAA Indoor Championships in the last four years. Prior to 2006, however, Simon Arkell was the only men's pole vaulter ever to compete at the indoor championships, making the trip in 1987, `89 and `90. He earned All-America honors with a clearance of 17-10.25 (7th) as a sophomore in 1989.

Arkell and Joe Powdrell had been the only men's pole vaulters to ever compete at the national championship meet, indoors or outdoors. Powdrell tied for 12th at the 1967 NCAA Outdoor Championships, twenty years before Arkell made his debut on the national stage.

Bridgid Isworth became the first UNM woman to compete in the event in 2003. Isworth finished tied for 12th at the NCAA Indoor Championships in Fayetteville, Ark.


UNM head coach Matt Henry, assistant coach (pole vault) Scott Steffan, Robert Caldwell and Derek Mackel will depart for Fayetteville, Ark. on Wednesday morning and will return on Sunday, March 12. The group will be staying at the Hampton Inn Fayetteville (479-587-8300).


Derek Mackel owns the seventh-best mark in the country entering the NCAA Championships, while Robert Caldwell is tied for 11th. Oregon junior Tommy Skipper is the national leader with a vault of 18' 8.75", which he recorded while winning the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation title two weeks ago in Seattle. Mountain West Conference champion Robison Pratt is the No. 2 seed with a top mark of 18' 8.25", which he cleared at the National Pole Vault Summitt competition in Reno, Nev. Skipper won the 2005 NCAA indoor title with a vault of 18' 4.25", while Pratt captured the outdoor crown last year with a mark of 18' 0.5". Seven of the 15 athletes in the 2006 field competed at either the indoor or outdoor championship meets last year, including five who took home All-America honors in `05.

Name • Yr. • School • Top Mark • Date
1. Thomas Skipper • JR • Oregon • 18-08.75 (5.71m) • 2-25
2. Robison Pratt • SR • BYU • 18-08.25 (5.70m) • 1-28
3. Brian Mondschein • SR • Virginia Tech • 18-01.25 (5.52m) • 2-11
4. John Russell • SR • Akron • 18-01.00 (5.51m) •1-13
5. Brad Gebauer • JR • Michigan State • 18-00.50 (5.50m) • 2-25
6. Keith Higham • SO • Pittsburgh • 17-11.25 (5.47m) •2-4
7. Derek Mackel • SR • New Mexico • 17-11.00 (5.46m) •1-21
8. Ray Scotten •SR • Nebraska • 17-09.00 (5.41m) •2-25
9. Chip Heuser • SO • Oklahoma • 17-08.50 (5.40m) •2-4
10. Graeme Hoste • SO • Stanford • 17-07.75 (5.38m) •2-4
T11. Robert Caldwell • JR • New Mexico • 17-07.25 (5.37m) • 2-25
T11. Bobby Most • SR • Texas Tech • 17-07.25 (5.37m) • 3-4
T13. Mitch Greeley • SO • Clemson • 17-07.00 (5.36m) •2-25
T13. Andre Poljanec • SO • Northern Iowa • 17-07.00 (5.36m) •1-28
T13. Sage Thames • JR • Texas Tech • 17-07.00 (5.36m) •2-25

1. Tommy Skipper (Oregon)
2. Robbie Pratt (BYU)
3. John Russell (Akron)
4. Mitch Greeley (Clemson)
5. Brian Mondschein (Virginia Tech)
6. Keith Highman (Pittsburgh)
7. Ray Scotten (Nebraska)
8. Brad Gebauer (Michigan State)
9. Chip Heuser (Oklahoma)
10. Robert Caldwell (New Mexico)
11. Derek Mackel (New Mexico)

12. Graeme Hoste (Stanford)


"The hard work is done. We've got two of the top 15 guys in the country and now we're just going to go have fun. They've worked hard, they're both experienced at big meets and they know what they have to do. Just go have fun and see what happens."

(on his expectations for Mackel and Caldwell entering the season): "I always knew they could qualify. I knew they had jumped high and I knew they could jump a lot higher. We've always known that they could do it, so it's not a big surprise. At the same time, it's so hard indoors to qualify for nationals and we're really excited that it finally happened for both of those guys."

(on the significance of two athletes joining former All-American Simon Arkell as the only Lobos to compete in the men's pole vault at the NCAA Indoor meet): "Well it's pretty exciting. Simon is a friend and he's always been keeping tabs on what we've been doing out here. We're excited to have two guys representing the University of New Mexico in the pole vault in a very, very tough field this year. The fact that they're both from right here in New Mexico is also exciting. Two hard-working local guys representing our state and our school we think is something awesome."

FROM SENIOR Derek Mackel

"I'm feeling really strong. I've been resting a lot, so my legs feel ready to go. Mentally I'm doing really well. My plant is coming really strong, so I think I can do well."

(on making his NCAA Championship debut): "You know, it was never really a thought in my mind until last year. Once I figured out that I could compete with these guys, I've been setting my targets and hopefully I can keep taking them down."

(on two New Mexicans pole vaulting at the national championships): "I think it's really great. It puts New Mexico pole vaulting back on the map for the first time since Simon (Arkell) was competing (in the late 1980s), especially now with two guys competing. A lot of teams would love to send two guys and we're really excited that we could."

FROM JUNIOR Robert Caldwell

"It feels great to go and I'm just happy I got the (qualifying) mark (last week at the MWC Championship meet). Of course you always want to jump higher, you always want to get the next bar, but I'm ready to go. This week I feel a little tired, a little worn out from school, but I'm ready to get there and ready to battle."

Robert Caldwell earned his NCAA bid by clearing 17' 7.25" in a runner-up finish at the MWC Championships.

"I'm not feeling any nervousness right now. I think when I get there I'll get super stoked and just be ready to get on the runway and feed off the crowd. We had to move back outdoors for practice (following the MWC Championship meet) and I wish I'd gotten a few stronger practices in before nationals, but it's not anything I'm too worried about."

"I've had goals ever since I started vaulting as a freshman in high school and each year I've set them higher and higher. Once I realized that I was going to be able to compete at the collegiate level, I eventually wanted to become an All-American and a national champion. Now I've got that opportunity. I'm ranked 11th in the country, but anything can happen. I just need to feel right that day. It's definitely a big meet, the biggest boys in the country are there and I'm ready to compete with them."


Sixth-year assistant coach Scott Steffan has established one of the premier men's and women's pole vaulting programs in the nation at New Mexico. A former teammate of three-time All-American and school record holder Simon Arkell, Steffan rebuilt the vault crew from the ground up after returning to Albuquerque. Under his watch, three New Mexico pole vaulters have competed at the NCAA Championship meet and UNM has had at least three athletes qualify for the NCAA Regional meet outdoors each of the past three years. The Lobo vaulters have also earned all-MWC honors seven times since 2003. Since 2002, UNM has boasted seven 16-foot vaulters on the men's side, including three that have cleared 17 feet. Five women have surpassed the 12 foot mark, including two over 13 feet. Four have also been nationally ranked in the event by Trackwire.com

Led by NCAA Championship qualifiers Derek Mackel and Robert Caldwell, the Lobo vaulters have enjoyed perhaps their best season in 2006. Mackel (17-11.00), Caldwell (17-07.25) and sophomore Whitney Johnson (13-01.50) all surpassed the NCAA provisional qualifying standard with career-best marks. Meanwhile, senior Zach Bingham (16-00.00), sophomore Zach Graham (16-02.75), junior Nicole Huyge (12-00.75) and junior Stefany Setliff (11-07.00), a first-year vaulter, all recorded their career bests this winter.

For more about the Lobos' vaunted vaulters, check out the group's website, dedicated to pole vaulting in New Mexico: www.nmpv.com


Championship track and field programs are not built overnight. They are constructed gradually, built upon a strong foundation of pride, tradition and a commitment to excellence. The University of New Mexico track and field program has built its legacy with the same championship formula.

Since 1930, New Mexico athletes have earned All-America honors 69 times, won 11 NCAA Championship events and claimed 197 conference events. Perhaps the most exceptional group of athletes ever to compete in any sport at UNM were on legendary coach Hugh Hackett's track and field teams of the 1960s.

A large group of Lobo legends from that era, including coach Hackett and former national champions Adolph Plummer and Art Baxter, reunited in Albuquerque on Jan. 20 for a memorable evening spent sharing memories and reaffirming a commitment to New Mexico track and field excellence. That night, reunion organizer Rene Matison, a two-time All-American at UNM, announced the founding of the Lobo Track and Field Alumni Club.

The Alumni Club seeks to unite all the men and women from the 1960s, `70s, `80s, `90s and even the 2000s who have been part of New Mexico's proud track and field history. Its goals include celebrating and preserving the program's proud tradition while helping current and future generations of Lobo track and field athletes establish a championship legacy of their own through facility and equipment upgrades and donations to the track and field scholarship fund.

For more information on the Lobo Track and Field Alumni Club, contact Rene Matison via email at rpmatison@msn.com.


Get to know more about the 2006 Lobos throughout the indoor/outdoor seasons as UNM track and field trainer Queenie Soriano sits down with selected athletes for a series of Q & A interviews, exclusively on www.GoLobos.com. Queenie's questions will offer a closer look at the life of a Lobo on and off the track.

This week Queenie sat down with UNM's lone international competitor, Israeli freshman jumper Hagit Salamon.

Derek Mackel
Pole Vault • Sr-3L/Sr-3L • 5-10
Albuquerque, N.M. (Sandia HS)

Senior Derek Mackel (Albuquerque Sandia HS)

New Mexico: The Lobos' top pole vaulter and a two-time all-Mountain West Conference honoree who is making his NCAA Championship debut in his final year...has had to battle through chronic pain in his knees throughout his career, but entered the 2006 season 100 percent healthy and solidified his place as one of the best competitors in the country...was probably the most improved athlete on the team in 2005...a remarkable rags to riches story who has gone from marginal walk-on to one of the top pole vault threats in the country over the past three years...has improved by more than five feet since joining the program in 2002...two-time MWC Athlete of the Week award winner.

2006: (indoor) Cleared 17 feet and finished among the top-3 in each of his five meet appearances...soared a career-best 17-11.00, the second best mark in UNM history, to tie defending NCAA outdoor champion Robison Pratt of BYU on Jan. 21 at the Modrall Sperling Lobo Invitational in Albuquerque...Pratt won the event with fewer misses, but Mackel was named MWC Men's Athlete of the Week for his performance...surpassed the NCAA provisional mark (17-00.50) three times during the winter...notched two victories and was third at the MWC Championship meet (17-03.50), just behind junior teammate Robert Caldwell, to earn indoor all-conference honors for the second straight season.

2006 Performance Chart
Jan. 14 • Mark Shumate Open (Albuquerque, N.M.) • 17-00.00 •1st
Jan. 21 • Modrall Sperling Lobo Invitational (Albuquerque, N.M.) • 17-11.00 •2nd
Jan. 28 • New Mexico Invitational (Albuquerque, N.M.) • 17-07.25 •1st
Feb. 4 • Husker Invitational (Lincoln, Neb.) • 17-00.00 • 3rd
Feb. 25 • MWC Championships (Albuquerque, N.M.) • 17-03.50 • 3rd

2005: (outdoor) Outdoor career-best mark of 17-08.50 en route to a third place finish in the section A competition at the Texas Relays...UNM record holder Simon Arkell is the only person in program history to go higher...defeated two nationally ranked vaulters in Austin and was ranked as high as No. 7 in the event by Trackwire.com...top mark was ranked 4th in the MWC and No. 8 in the region, both among the best pole vaulting divisions in the nation...had a feast-or-famine season and struggled with his consistency, largely due to the pain in his knees...cleared 17 feet and finished among the top-3 in 3 meets, including wins at UTEP and the home Don Kirby Invite, but failed to clear the opening height in the other 5 competitions, including the MWC Championships and NCAA Midwest Regionals...(indoor) Was one of the last men left our of the NCAA Championship field...owned the 18th-best mark in the country, clearing a then career-best 17-05.50 in an all-conference (3rd) performance at the MWC Championships...became the first Lobo to earn all-MWC honors in the men's pole vault...surpassed the 17-foot mark twice during the winter...won the event at Texas Tech...also cleared 17 feet to win the exhibition opener in Albuquerque.

2004: (outdoor) Tied freshman Robert Caldwell for the Lobos' second-highest pole vault mark of the year...recorded a career-best and regional qualifying mark of 16-04.75 to finish third at the Mesa Classic...height was ranked seventh in the conference and 17th in the region...notched top-5 finishes in his first three meets, but struggled a bit down the stretch, failing to clear the minimum height at the MWC and Midwest Region Championship meets...(indoor) MWC finalist in the pole vault, placing eighth with a mark of 15-07.25...cleared 16 feet for the first time in his career at Texas Tech, placing fourth with a mark of 16-01.25.

2003: (outdoor) Redshirt season...(indoor) Competed at three meets in the pole vault and 60 meters...notched the team's third-best mark at the MWC Championships, clearing 15-09.00 (T10th).

2002: (outdoor) Appeared in two meets with a top mark of 15-01.00 at UTEP...tied for fifth at the Lobo Open...(indoor) Redshirt season.

High School: Two-year letterwinner in track and field at Albuquerque Sandia High School, under head coach Blaine Clarke...Sandia won the district title and was the state runner-up in 2000...also lettered one year in cross country.

Personal: Born on Nov. 18, 1982 in Albuquerque, N.M....age is 23...full name is Derek Jordan Mackel...son of Donald and Sharon Mackel...has a brother, Scott (42), who played professional hockey for the Dallas Sabres club...enjoys snowboarding and freestyle BMX riding...has a second degree black belt in tae kwon do and has also earned the rank of Eagle Scout...major is University Studies.

Pole Vault: 17-11.00

Pole Vault: 17-08.50

Robert Caldwell
Pole Vault • Jr-2L/Jr-2L • 6-0
Socorro, N.M. (Socorro HS)

Junior Robert Caldwell
(Socorro, N.M.)

New Mexico: Two-time NCAA regional qualifier outdoors and the 2006 Mountain West Conference runner-up who has developed into one of the top pole vaulters in the country...entered the 2006 season in great shape and is making his first NCAA Championship meet appearance this Friday...has made dramatic strides over the past two years, improving by two feet since his freshman year, and has been perhaps the team's most consistent vaulter.

2006: (indoor) Competed six times during the regular season, finishing among the top-2 in five meets...cleared the 17-foot mark five times as well...surpassed the NCAA provisional qualifying standard four times and really came up big in one of his last chances to earn an NCAA berth...cleared a career-best height of 17-07.25 in a runner-up finish at the Mountain West Conference Championships behind defending outdoor national champion Robison Pratt of BYU and one spot ahead of senior teammate Derek Mackel...performance earned him all-conference honors for the first time in his career.

2006 Performance Chart
Jan. 14 • Mark Shumate Open (Albuquerque, N.M.) • 17-00.00 • 2nd
Jan. 21 • Modrall Sperling Lobo Invitational (Albuquerque, N.M.) • 17-02.75 • 2nd
Jan. 28 • New Mexico Invitational (Albuquerque, N.M.) •16-08.75 • 2nd
Feb. 4 • Husker Invitational (Lincoln, Neb.) • 17-00.00 •4th
Feb. 11 • Albuquerque Invitational (Albuquerque, N.M.) •17-03.00 •1st
Feb. 25 • MWC Championships (Albuquerque, N.M.) • 17-07.25 • 2nd

2005: (outdoor) Punched his ticket to NCAA Midwest Regional meet with a career-best vault of 17-00.75 in the section B competition at the Texas Relays (3rd)...mark was the second-best on the team behind junior Derek Mackel...finished T15th at regionals with a mark of 16-07.25...surpassed 16 feet six times and had just one meet without a clearance...notched regional qualifying marks in 3 of his final 5 regular season competitions and placed fifth at the MWC Championships, the nation's premier pole vaulting conference, with a mark of 16-09.50...five top-5 finishes...(indoor) Got off to a slow start, recording no heights in his first two meets, but cleared 16 feet in his final two competitions, including an indoor PR of 16-01.75 at the MWC Championships (9th).

2004: (outdoor) NCAA Midwest Regional qualifier in the with a season-best mark of 16-04.75 in a victory at New Mexico State...height was tied with Derek Mackel for second on the team...did not clear the minimum height and failed to place at the regional championships...finished fourth at the MWC Championships, however, with a clearance of 15-07.75...cleared 16 feet in four meets...(indoor) Competed in four meets, recording a top mark of 15-07.25 in a 10th place finish at the MWC Championships...placed fourth at NAU.

High School: Four-year letterwinnner in track and field at Socorro (N.M.) High School, under head coach David Mathieu...3A state champion as a senior...finished second as a junior and third as a sophomore...owns SHS school record with a top vault of 15-07.00...senior track MVP and Most Improved award winner as a junior...three-time academic letterman...Junior Olympics Region 10 runner-up in the pole vault...placed seventh out of 41 at the National Junior Olympics pole vault competition.

Personal: Born on July 31, 1984 in Soccorro, N.M....age is 21...full name is Robert Clinton Caldwell...son of Wes and Katherine Caldwell...has two brothers: Johnny (27) and Jimmy (25), and two sisters: Leslie (23) and Ajelica (4)...majoring in Business.

Pole Vault: 17-07.25

Pole Vault: 17-00.75