Stevens: Lobos Open Indoor Track Season With Depth-Laden Squad
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  01/13/2011
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Jan. 13, 2011

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Lobo Indoor Track - Saturday in Convention Center

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

Lobo track coach Joe Franklin's move to return passion and high-quality competition to indoor track in Albuquerque probably became a verifiable reality when meets at the Albuquerque Convention Center in 2010 became sellouts.

But Franklin isn't through pushing that indoor snowball and seeing how big he can make it grow.

The Lobos' schedule for the Convention Center is even bigger and more challenging in 2011.

"The teams we have coming in here are better than ever," said Franklin. "We've never got UTEP up here and they are coming in twice. We have UCLA coming for the first time.

"We'll have Stanford, Texas, Ohio State, Texas Tech. The meets get bigger and bigger and better each week."

The Lobos open their indoor season this Saturday (Jan. 15) with the Lobo Open, an event Franklin says is a "low-key" start. The Lobos' try to up the competition over the next several meets and peak for the Mountain West Conference Championships scheduled for the Convention Center on Feb.24-26. UNM will have five collegiate meets prior to the MWC finals.

There also are some non-Lobo meets on the Convention Center docket spearheaded by Franklin, including the USA Championships and the National Masters. "The Masters is a huge economic impact for the city," said Franklin. "They'll come in and vacation for a week around the meet."

The Lobos are looking to improve on their indoor performance from 2010, but any increase in Lobo scoring might have to come through depth rather than blue-chip performances.

UNM scored a school-record 18 points at the 2010 NCAA Indoor Championships, but that point total was rocketing by Lee Emanuel repeating as national champion in the mile. All four of the Lobos competing at that meet - Sandy Fortner, Rory Fraser, Chris Barnicle and Emanuel - reached All-American status.

"We lost some good kids, but we've added some good kids," said Franklin. "We might not have the big bangers (scorers) as last year, but we will be pretty solid."

Franklin says he'll looks for points - and improvement - from Kyle Walker (pole vault), Rory Fraser (distances), Lamaar Thomas (sprinter), Richard York (multi-events), Logan Pfibsen (pole vault), Ross Millington (mid-distance), David Bishop (mid-distance), De'Vron Walker (hurdles), Deanna Young (jumps), Natalie Gray (3,000), Ruth Senior (steeplechase, 5,000), Margo Tucker (pole vault), Shirley Pitts (springs) - just to name a few Lobos.

"We have depth, now we need a few kids to step up with quality points and get to the NCAAs," said Franklin. "We need some people to emerge as a challenger for the national title or get up there into the top three. There are several who could do it. Lamar Thomas went to outdoor nationals last year and he keeps getting faster and faster.

"We have two solid teams (men/women). I think we have about five women who could reach nationals. We just need to keep improving."

Franklin says the MWC favorite indoors is the BYU men with the TCU women heavy with quality points and the BYU women loaded with depth.

Franklin said even though there were some sellouts last season in the Convention Center, he still wants to stress to the sports fans in New Mexico about the tremendous opportunity to see great track in Albuquerque.

"I'm sure there are still people out there who don't know about what's going on with indoor track in Albuquerque," said Franklin. "There is an unbelievable history of indoor track and field in Albuquerque dating back to the Tingley Coliseum. Now, it's back again."

Franklin also stresses that the success of indoor track in the Convention Center makes it easier on his Lobos - and isn't a bad recruiting tool. The Lobos already has a world-class outdoors experience in weather and altitude.

Now, there is a mecca of indoor opportunity in the Lobos' backyard - about a five-minute drive from the UNM campus.

"It's such a plus not having to put our kids on a bus or a plane in order to get them to quality competition," said Franklin. "We sleep in our own beds and wake up and drive over to a meet. The best athletes in the nation are coming to us."

Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former sports columnist and Associate Sports Editor with The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at rstevens50@comcast.net.