May 24, 2011
Lobo Track & Field - At The NCAA West Qualifying Regional
Hayward Field - University of Oregon - Eugene, Ore.
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
These Lobos might have to fight the wind. There might be some chilling rain, too. But Lobo Coach Joe Franklin says the talented pack of Lobos he takes to Eugene, Ore., for the NCAA West Qualifying Meet won't have to fight any pressure.
Well, at least there won't be any pressure coming from the laid back New Mexico coach.
"If there is any pressure, it comes internally from each athlete," said Franklin. "We don't put any pressure on them. We just ask them to be in a position in the last part of their event to have a shot to make it (to nationals).
"This meet should be a fun experience for them. They have worked hard to get here and it's a great experience for all athletes to compete at Hayward Field. I would guess in the three days of the meet there will be 25,000 to 30,000 fans watching. It's one of the more exciting venues in college track."
OK, Lobos. Have fun. Watch out for puddles and cross winds. But you know there will be some pressure buckling around in the winds - or in the calm before the starter's gun sounds.
The meet hosted by the University of Oregon is the gateway to the NCAA Championships set June 8-11 in Des Moines, Iowa.
Franklin is aware of that pressure to advance. The NCAA qualifying meets are neat things and great accomplishments. It only gets better at the national finals in Drake Stadium.
"This meet (regionals) is essentially one-and-done," said Franklin. "You finish in the top 12 or your season ends. You have to leave it all on the track.
"Our goal is to get as many Lobos to Des Moines as possible and to try and achieve that with lifetime bests. All we ask is for each athlete to strive to get a lifetime best. If you do that and don't make it to nationals, well, you have left it all on the course"
The meet in Eugene begins at 10 a.m. (PT) Thursday with field events. The running events begin at 3:30 p.m. (PT) Thursday. The meet continues Friday and concludes around 5 p.m. (PT) on Saturday.
The top 12 times from the West Regional and the top 12 times from the East Regional (Indiana) advance to the NCAA finals.
GO THE DISTANCE
No women's track program at the two NCAA Qualifying Meets has more distance entries than the Lobo women, who have claimed nine spots.
"At some level, the NCAA finals are easier on an athlete because the pressure to get there is over," said Franklin. "In the finals, you also have only 24 people in your event and you have a better chance to score. You just have to get there."
Franklin takes 29 Lobos to the West qualifying meet, which is a Lobo program record. The field for each event has room for 48 entrants, but there might be fewer athletes in some events due to injuries. This is not a meet that will be scored and the times or distances are not what advances an athlete to the NCAA finals.
You finish in the top 12, you advance. You finish 13th or worse and you go home.
"It's all about placement," said Franklin. ""I would expect us to get seven or eight Lobos to nationals, but you never know how things will play out or how the weather will come into play."
The Lobos have 16 men heading to Eugene: Sam Evans (800), David Bishop (1,500), Ross Millington (5,000), Rory Fraser (5,000), Nicholas Kipruto (5,000), Keith Gerrard (10,000), Charles Lewis (400 hurdles), Yusuf Muhammad (400 hurdles), Alex Willis (steeple), Django Lovett (high jump), Kendall Spencer (Long jump), Warrick Campbell (triple jump), Gabe Aragon (800), Lamaar Thomas (100), and De'Vron Walker (110 hurdles). Richard York has qualified in the decathlon, but that event is only held at the national finals.
The Lobo women have 13 athletes advancing to Eugene: Ruth Senior (5,000/10,000), Natalie Gray (steeple/5,000/10,000), Sarah Waldron (10,000), Kirsty Milner (5,000, 10,000), Alex Darling (steeple), Precious Selmon (hurdles), Margo Tucker (pole), Amber Menke (pole), Alesha Walker (long jump), Deanna Young (triple jump), Lacey Oeding (10,000), Vanessa Ortiz (5,000) and Shirley Pitts (400).
Franklin says the increased number of Lobos advancing into postseason reflects the growth of his program, in its fourth season.
"The quality of our athletes is going up," he said. "Our program is getting better and better, and athletes are seeing that. And we will continue to get better."