Johnson and Murphy Hit The Road For NCAA Last Chance Meets
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  03/03/2006
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

March 3, 2006

UPDATE -- University of New Mexico sophomore Whitney Johnson and senior Timmie Murphy each have one final chance to qualify for the 2006 NCAA Indoor Championship meet. Johnson is in Colorado Springs, Colo. where she will compete in the pole vault this evening at the Don Barrett Air Force Open. Murphy, meanwhile, is traveling to Seattle for the University of Washington's NCAA Last Chance Qualifier meet. She will run the 3,000 meters tomorrow at 4:30 p.m. (MST). The selections for NCAA Indoor Championships (March 10-11 in Fayetteville, Ark.) will be announced on Monday, March 6.

The NCAA selection process has been an inexact science over the years with anywhere from 14-21 athletes being selected in any one event. Generally though, no more than 17 competitors make the cut for nationals.

Johnson surpassed the NCAA provisional qualifying standard in the pole vault with a season-best mark of 12-11.50 on Jan. 28 at the UNM Invitational at the Albuquerque Convention Center, but she will likely need to improve six inches in order to advance to the NCAA meet. Her current mark is tied for 36th in the country. The Mission Viejo, Calif. native owns a career-best of 13-00.25, which she recorded last year at the Mountain West Conference Indoor Championship meet in Colorado Springs.

Murphy just missed the NCAA provisional mark in the 3,000 last week in Albuquerque, clocking an career-best (altitude adjusted) time of 9:37.20 en route to a second place finish at the MWC Championships. She will likely need to run within two seconds of the NCAA automatic qualifying time of 9:16.00 to join the national championship field. The Farmington, N.M. native will be running at sea level for just the second time this winter. She ran a time of 9:46.99 in Lincoln, Neb. on Feb. 4 in her last low elevation race.

Last year, UNM head coach Matt Henry took six athletes, including Johnson, to South Bend, Ind. for a last chance meet at Notre Dame. Seniors Matt Gonzales was the only Lobo to move on to the NCAA Championships, winning his first career indoor 5,000m race with a automatic qualifying time of 13:49.06 to become the first member of the UNM men's team in 14 years to secure a berth at the indoor national championship meet. Gonzales went on to earn All-America honors at the NCAA meet, placing fourth in the 5,000 with a time of 13:45.72.

VAULTERS AWAIT OFFICIAL INVITATION -- Senior Derek Mackel and junior Robert Caldwell will both be resting comfortably at home in Albuquerque this weekend awaiting their official invitation to the pole vault field at the 2006 NCAA Indoor Championship meet. Mackel is currently ranked seventh in the nation with a top mark of 17-11.00 (Jan. 21 in Albuquerque), while Caldwell climbed up to 11th on the national list with his clearance of 17-07.25 at the MWC Championship meet last week in Albuquerque.

Mackel was one of the last pole vaulters cut from the NCAA Championship field last year, finishing the year ranked 18th with a top mark of 17-05.50. The NCAA selection committee invited 17 athletes to compete in the pole vault at the 2005 national championship meet.

New Mexico has never had a pair of pole vaulters invited to the NCAA Championships in the same season. Simon Arkell is the only men's vaulter to appear in the NCAA Indoor meet, while Bridgid Isworth (2003) is the only women to compete in the pole vault at the national meet. Arkell qualified in 1987, `89 and `90, earning All-America honors with his seventh place finish in `89. Arkell, Isworth and Joe Powdrell (outdoor - 1967) are the only UNM pole vaulters ever to compete at the NCAA Championship meet.

UNM has not sent athletes to the NCAA Indoor Championships in consecutive years since 1989-90. 1990 was also the last time two Lobos appeared at the indoor meet with Arkell in the pole vault and Darren Crawford in the weight throw.