Aug. 4, 2004
The 2004 season saw the continuing steady improvement of the University of New Mexico track and field program under fourth-year head coach Matt Henry. While there were certainly ups and downs during the five-month indoor and outdoors seasons, Henry's Lobos continued to forge ahead in their quest to return New Mexico among the list of track and field powers. Despite the loss of several key competitors due to graduation or injury, the UNM men and women turned in many impressive performance throughout the year. Though the women's squad lacked the overall depth in `04 to factor into team scoring competitions, the men's team proved to be a surprising force in scored meets. After finishing seventh in the season-opener at Air Force, the Lobo men rebounded with a strong fifth place finish in the 22-team field at the Houston Indoor Invitational. The following week, in a rare quadrangular meet at Northern Arizona, New Mexico swept the field with victories over UC-Irvine, Southern Utah and the host Lumberjacks. The Lobos went on the cap the season by recording their best indoor conference meet score in 14 years. UNM finished fifth for the fourth straight year at the Mountain West Conference Indoor Championships, but its 66 points were the most since tallying 118 at the 1990 Western Athletic Conference meet. Senior Mark Johnson ended a 13-year drought by becoming the first member of the UNM men's team since 1991 to capture an indoor conference title with his stirring victory in the inaugural heptathlon competition. After entering day two in seventh place, Johnson won two of his final three events to earn his second career conference title. Amanda Barnes (shot put), Matt Gonzales (mile), Chris Garofola (200m) and the men's and women's distance medley relay teams joined Johnson in earning all-MWC honors for New Mexico. The Lobo men and women continued their momentum during the outdoor season. Twelve New Mexico athletes earned qualifying marks for either the NCAA national or regional championship meets throughout the season and the Lobos eclipsed the top marks of the 2003 season in 26 events. Sixteen of those top marks were the best in Henry's tenure at New Mexico. At the MWC Outdoor Championship meet, the UNM men earned their second-highest score under Henry (94.5 points), won a pair of event titles, had four athletes earn all-MWC honors and scored in 17 of the 19 events in which they competed. The women, meanwhile, also won a pair of gold medals and earned all-conference honors in four events. Junior Hank Baskett claimed his first MWC high jump title, after runner-up finishes each of the past two years, to become the first UNM man to win the event since 1994. After a second place finish a year ago, fellow junior Bridgid Isworth captured her first outdoor pole vault title to extend the UNM women's streak to six years with at least one conference champion. Isworth, who later nearly earned a trip to the national meet with a sixth place finish at the Midwest Regionals, defied her No. 5 seed to win by an easy four inches. Junior Matt Gonzales went on to secure his first conference title, winning the 5,000 meters with a MWC Outdoor Championships record time of 14:12.59, and finished as the Lobos' high-point man with 15 points after coming back to place fourth in the 1,500. The Lobos' junior class continued to shine as Amanda Barnes solidified her place as the best women's shot put competitor in UNM history, claiming her second straight league title with a school record toss of 50-11.00.
Mark Johnson and Matt Gonzales advanced to the NCAA Outdoor Championships and represented the Cherry and Silver well with their performances on the national stage. Gonzales, who was coming off a school record-setting 5,000-meter performance at the U.S. Open, entered the national meet as the top-seeded runner in the 10,000. Though he finished fourth in the wet, humid conditions, Gonzales became the first Lobo in 13 years to earn All-America honors back-to-back years. Over the next two days, Johnson went about showing the country the kind of grit and determination in the decathlon that made his Lobo career so memorable. Ranked 22nd entering the meet, Johnson moved up five spots on the final day of competition to finish 15th out of 26 athletes. He notched four career-best marks during the 10-event competition, including a PR in the 1,500, the 173rd and final event of his New Mexico career. Johnson, who earned his Masters in Business Administration degree in May, went on to earn first team Academic All-America honors, a first under Henry's tenure. The relentless Gonzales kept UNM track and field in the spotlight well into the summer with his spirited run at a U.S. Olympic team berth in the 5,000 meters. After winning his preliminary heat in front of a live national television audience, Gonzales finished an impressive sixth in the finals, tops among collegiate competitors.
A RECORDS RECORDNew Mexico's men and women combined to set an astonishing 12 records during the 2004 indoor and outdoor seasons, the most under head coach Matt Henry's tenure. Eight new standards were set during the winter, including five on the men's side. The UNM women set three records during the outdoor season, while Matt Gonzales became only the second Lobo man since 1993 to etch his in the record books . Gonzales erased an 18-year-old record in the 5,000 with his time of 13:35.59 at the U.S. Open.
BEST OF THE MOUNTAIN WESTSenior Mark Johnson and junior Matt Gonzales were each selected as MWC Men's Track and Field Athletes of the Week during the 2004 outdoor season. Gonzales picked up his second career Athlete of the Week award after his performance in the 10,000 meters at the elite Cardinal Invitational on April 30 in Stanford, Calif. The Santa Fe native ran the third-fastest collegiate 10K of the year, crossing the line with a time of 28:22.77 to better his own MWC record in the event. The time was also over 37 seconds under the NCAA automatic qualifying time and an Olympic Trials qualifying effort as well. Johnson, meanwhile, earned the award for the first time in his career after his performance in the decathlon at the prestigious Texas Relays in early April. Johnson set personal records in his final four events of the decathlon to move up six places on the second day of the competition to finish seventh in a field featuring many of the nation's top competitors. His NCAA provisional qualifying score of 7,141 was at the time a personal best and the highest in the MWC.
QUALITY KRAFT-MANSHIPTo gauge the impact second year volunteer coach Matt Kraft had on the New Mexico throwers during the year, one need only to take a look at the UNM record book or the Mountain West Conference and Midwest Region top performance lists. Under Kraft's tutelage, juniors Amanda Barnes and Jamie Fishencord smashed the school records in the shot put, hammer throw and discus. Barnes captured her second straight outdoor MWC shot put crown and smashed her own UNM record by 18 inches with a mark of 50-11.00. The Carlsbad, N.M. native, who also became the first Lobo woman to earn all-conference honors in the shot put during the indoor season, joined the late Darren Crawford (1989-90) as the only back-to-back outdoor conference shot put champions in the history of the UNM men's and women's programs. Barnes finished the year ranked seventh in the Midwest Region in the shot put and was among the MWC top-10 in both the shot and discus. Fishencord, meanwhile, enjoyed a meteoric rise in her third season, finishing the year ranked among the league's top-10 in the hammer and discus, and owning school records in both events. She broke Barnes' two-week old record in the discus by one inch at the MWC Championships with a mark of 151-09. Fishencord, who entered the meet ranked 14th, became the first UNM woman ever to score in the discus at the MWC Championships by placing seventh overall. Already the school record holder in the hammer, Fishencord surpassed her 2003 mark by over 22 feet with a top throw of 179-04. She went on to place an impressive 11th at the NCAA regional meet, fifth among the MWC competitors in the field. On the men's side, senior Jason Barkemeyer established himself as one of the best shot put and discus men in the Mountain West, one of the nation's top conferences in the throwing events, and qualified for the NCAA Midwest Regional Championship meet in both events for the second straight year. Barkemeyer finished the year ranked fourth in the MWC and 16th in the Midwest region in the shot put and was also the league's No. 6 discus thrower (25th regionally). He also teamed with redshirt junior Joshua Parra to give the Lobos' a pair of MWC top-10 competitors in the hammer throw. Parra's top mark of 175-07 was the best by a Lobo under head coach Matt Henry.
VAUNTED VAULTERSSince returning to his alma mater with Matt and Mark Henry four years ago, assistant coach Scott Steffan has worked to make the pole vault a marquee event at University of New Mexico. A teammate of New Mexico's greatest pole vaulter, three-time All-American and six-time WAC champion Simon Arkell, Steffan built one of the top vaulting units in the Mountain West Conference this past spring. Three Lobo men (Sr. Mark Johnson, Jr. Derek Mackel and Fr. Robert Caldwell) qualified for the NCAA Midwest Region Championships and were ranked among the top-10 in the Mountain West. Johnson. Senior Mark Johnson went on to finish tied for ninth at the Midwest Regionals with a team-best vault of 16-05.25, while true freshman Robert Caldwell placed fourth at the MWC meet.
On the women's side, juniors Bridgid Isworth and Amber Nolte were each ranked among the top-10 in the Mountain West, with true freshman Nicole Huyge not far below. Following a hiatus during the indoor season, Isworth returned strong as ever. After winning the MWC title with relative ease, Isworth fell inches short of advancing to the NCAA Championships. Seeded just 17th, she sailed a season-best 12-10.00 to finish tied for fifth at the regional meet, but eventually lost in the tie-breaking jump-off.