March 12, 2008
University of New Mexico junior Sandy Fortner will make history on Saturday when she becomes the first Lobo multi-event athlete and first UNM woman from the state of New Mexico to compete at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships in Fayetteville, Ark. The Fort Sumner product enters the meet as the No. 14 seed in the 17-woman pentathlon competition, which gets underway with the 60-meter hurdles at 10:30 a.m. (MST). The next four pentathlon events - high jump, shot put, long jump and 800 - will begin 30 minutes after the conclusion of each previous event.
Fortner punched her ticket to the NCAA Championships with an NCAA provisional qualifying and school record score of 4,005 en route to the Mountain West Conference pentathlon title on Feb. 28. She is the first UNM woman since 2003 (pole vaulter Bridgid Isworth) and just the second since 1984 to qualify for the NCAA Indoor meet. Fortner is the first Lobo, man or woman, to qualify for indoor nationals in a multi-event competition.
FROM Sandy Fortner"It's an honor just being the only person from the state going to the NCAAs. It gives me the motivation to get things done to prove that since New Mexico isn't that well know athletically, we do deserve to be there and we do have great athletes."
FROM HEAD COACH Joe Franklin"Sandy is in an unique situation because she's been a very talented athlete for years here at UNM. She's finally been able to put it together and make a national championship run. She goes into the meet seeded 14th out of 17, but within that it's literally a few inches here, a tenth of a second there, and she could be in the top eight. Realistically, if she has a good day and puts all of her events together, the sky's the limit. Sandy has worked her tail off. She has adapted to the coaching change very well. I hope that she has a great experience, being that this is her first one, so that she can many, many more great experiences."
SCOUTING THE NCAA PENTATHLON FIELDArizona State senior Jacquelyne Johnson is the top seed and clear favorite after winning NCAA pentathlon crowns in 2007 and '06, and finishing second in the event in '04. Minnesota senior Liz Roehrig and Arizona junior Shevell Quinley have distanced themselves from the pack behind Johnson, but the scoring competition should be fierce with just 91 points separating the No. 4 through No. 15 seeds.
The lone MWC competitor in the field, Fortner has faced just two NCAA penathlon competitors head-to-head this season. On Jan. 25 she was fifth (3,691) at the Penn State National Invitational, finishing behind Penn State junior Gayle Hunter (1st, 4,073 pts.) and Boston College senior Tiana Riel (3rd, 3,787 pts.).
Last year Fortner faced Johnson, Quinley and Texas Tech senior Julianne Kennedy at the Roger Cox Multis at the Albuquerque Convention Center. Fortner finished with a score of 3,709 - 25 ahead of Kennedy, 72 behind Quinley and 146 behind Johnson.
Sandy Fortner AT A GLANCE One of the nation's premier multi-event athletes who has surpassed the NCAA provisional qualifying standard in the heptathlon (2006-07) and pentathlon ('07-`08).
An MWC finalist in the long jump and high jump, who is also one of the best shot putters in the country among the multi-event competitors...has developed into a key member of the Lobos' 4x400 relay team as well, helping to set the indoor school record in 2007.
Has competed in 129 events in her first three years, including 6 heptathlons and 6 pentathlons.
Another one of the Lobos' small-town stars...dominated the class 1A competition while at tiny Fort Sumner High School in eastern New Mexico (town population 1,060)...2005 Albuquerque Journal Female Athlete of the Year - the first competitor from a 1A program to win the award...4-time high point winner at the state meet, including her freshman and sophomore years at 2A Tucamcari High School...19 gold medals in her career...captured state titles in the high jump, long jump, 100-meter hurdles, 400 meters and 100 meters as a senior...set 8 class 1A records in her career.
Identical twin sister Kelly is a sophomore pole vaulter for the Lobos...dad, Brian, is the girl's basketball and track coach at Fort Sumner HS...majoring in Occupational Therapy with a minor in Sign Language.
COLLEGIATE BESTS - INDOOR
High Jump: 5-08.50
Shot Put: 42-04.00
Long Jump: 19-08.00
SEASON TO REMEMBERFortner will look to put the finishing touches on a record-breaking season in which she recorded lifetime bests in almost every event she competed in.
Fortner competed in her first pentathlon of the season on Jan. 25, finishing fifth with a score of 3,691 at the Penn State National Invitational. She led after the shot put with a toss of 42' 4" that was almost four feet beyond her previous indoor best and more than five feet ahead of her nearest competitor. Fortner's score was only eight points shy of the NCAA provisional qualifying mark.
On Feb 9., at the Don Barrett Air Force Open, Fortner crushed her previous indoor best in the long jump by nearly seven inches, winning the event with a career-best mark of 19' 8" (5.99m). The mark was the seventh-best in the Mountain West Conference this winter.
It was the Mountain West Championships, however, where Fortner shined brightest. She set the tone early, smashing her previous career-bests in the first two events of the pentathlon on Feb. 28. She clocked an altitude adjusted time of 8.70 to finish second in the 60-meter hurdles, then erased the memories of a no height result in 2007 by winning the high jump with a MWC-best mark of 5' 8 1/2" (1.74m). Fortner ran 0.16 seconds under her previous best in the hurdles and was a remarkable 3 1/4" over her PR in the high jump.
After top-3 finishes in the shot put and long jump, Fortner finished a strong fifth in the 800 to become the second woman in Lobo history to win a conference title in the pentathlon, joining her former coach Keren Sari-Bentzur, who captured the MWC title in 2003 with a then-school record 3,845 points. Fortner surpassed Sari-Bentzur's mark by 160 points en route to the fourth-best score in MWC history.
She went on to score 21.5 points at the MWC meet, earning all-conference honors in the high jump (T-3rd), placing fourth in the 60m hurdles - the best by a Lobo woman since 2000 - and finishing eighth in the long jump.