Feb. 24, 2007
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - The University of New Mexico captured three event titles on Saturday, the third and final day of the Mountain West Conference Indoor Track & Field Championships at the Albuquerque Convention Center. Sophomore Tiyana Peters opened the day with a win in the women's high jump (5' 10"), followed by junior Ariel Burr's victory in the women's 400m (school record 53.73). The all-New Mexico team of Taylor Siemon, Randle McCain, Kurt Henry and Jarrin Solomon capped the meet with the Lobos' first 4x400m relay crown in 20 years.
Solomon also finished second in the men's 400m, clocking a school record time of 47.00 to earn all-MWC honors in the event for the first time indoors. Junior Jeremy Johnson finished second in the men's 3,000 to earn his second silver medal of the meet, finishing with an altitude-adjusted time of 8:09.68 - the fastest in head coach Matt Henry's seven years at UNM.
Johnson overcame a painful foot injury that kept him off the track the previous three weeks to claim meet high point honors for the Lobos for the second straight season. The Albuquerque Manzano High School product racked up 16 points in the 5,000 and 3,000 on Friday and Saturday.
New Mexico finished seventh in the women's team standings (38), just nine points out of fifth place. The men's team was sixth (62), trailing TCU by just seven. While a lack of depth indoors and slow start on Thursday kept them from a better finish in the team standings, the Lobos ignited the home crowd with a series of thrilling performances on Saturday.
Peters opened the day with a bang, clearing her first two bars without a miss and surpassing the NCAA provisional qualifying mark on her second attempt. When Colorado State freshman Sonni Russell was unable to match, Peters stood alone as the champion.
Peters had cleared the 5' 10" mark earlier in the year, only to watch the bar inexplicably tumble to the ground as she knelt on the mat.
Her conference title ended a three-year indoor drought for the Lobo women. After finishing second last year, behind CSU's Rheannon Backes (who was fourth today), Peters became the second Lobo to win the high jump indoors. Aura Cook was the first to do so, capturing the 1993 Western Athletic Conference crown.
Later, Burr became the first UNM woman to win an indoor conference title on the track. The previous eight, including Peters' high jump victory, had all come in the field events.
After notching just the fifth-fastest qualifying time on Friday however, the Carrizozo, N.M. product had to win her first MWC title the hard way - win heat one with a time that the four runners in second and fastest heat would not be able to beat.
The 5-4 Burr got out quickly and wasted little time distancing herself from the field. With 100 meters to go she began to pour it on, flying past the cheering grandstands en route to a dominating heat one victory.
When TCU senior Nathandra John, the defending champion, crossed the line in 53.80 to win heat two, Burr smiled and put her hands on her knees in a mix of joy and relief, knowing her gold medal was secure.
Burr's time was 0.54 seconds under her own UNM indoor record, set last year in a runner-up finish at the MWC Championships, and 0.67 faster than the NCAA provisional qualifying time in the event.
The final men's event of the day proved to be worth the wait as the top four 400-meter men in the state of New Mexico looked to extend their two-meet winning streak.
After a disappointing finish in the 400 prelims on Friday, a determined Siemon (Albuquerque La Cueva HS) once again got the Lobos out of the blocks quickly. The sophomore distanced himself from the field over the final 100 meters to give the Lobos a five-meter lead on the first exchange.
McCain (Silver City, N.M.) held the lead for 300 meters before 60-meter champion Delwayne Delaney of TCU began to reel in the UNM senior. Delaney, however, collided with teammate Jay Cooper and dropped the baton as Cooper attempted to encroach on Kurt Henry's inside position in a physical exchange zone.
Henry (Albuquerque Cibola HS) kept his composure, completed a clean exchange and again proved to be an impassable force on his home track. The junior kept Colorado State's Kyle Keeler at bay for the entire 400-meters and gave Solomon a critical lead in his anchor leg battle against the Rams newly crowed 400-meter champion, Drew Morano.
The gold medal came down the final 50 meters as Solomon (Albuquerque LaCueva HS) flew off the turn in lane two, while Morano tried to make his final move inside. The two went stride-for-stride down the straightaway as the roaring Convention Center crowd came to its feet. Solomon and the Lobos were not to be denied, however, as the junior held off Morano for a 0.17 second victory.
Solomon held up his uniform after crossing, showing the crowd the "New Mexico" lettering across the front as UNM had its first MWC 4x400 title after earning all-conference honors five times in the past seven years. The gold medal was the first for UNM at the conference meet since the 1987 team won the WAC indoor title at the Air Force Academy.
Other Lobo highlights on Saturday included:
Men's 400m: Running out of lane five in the second and fastest heat, Jarrin Solomon was unable to get into ideal position after the first lap and got stuck behind CSU's Drew Morano and Dell Guy of TCU. He caught Guy (47.06) down the final straight, but ran out of room to reel in Morano (46.74). Solomon's time of 47.00 broke the UNM indoor 400m record set by Tony Eziuka in 1990 (47.11). Jarrin's dad Michael Solomon owns the school record in the 440-yard dash indoors with a hand-held time of 47.3 in 1977.
Men's 3,00m: Jeremy Johnson tasted victory for a second straight day before once again having to settle for second. This time it was in the men's 3,000, where Johnson took the lead with roughly 300 meters to go. Wyoming's Mark Korir, however, used a sensational kick over the final lap to outdistance the field for a two-second victory. New Mexico junior Juan Ortega finished sixth with a career-best altitude-adjusted time of 8:18.43 in what was his third race of the weekend. Ortega also ran the 5,000 (5th) and ran the final leg of the Lobos' fifth place distance medley relay team.
Women's Triple Jump: New Mexico scored six points in the final field event of the day as sophomore Hagit Salamon finished fifth with a leap of 39' 8" and Deanna Young, a rookie from Albuquerque Highland High School, finished seventh with a mark of 39' 5 ¼".
Women's High Jump: Sophomore Sandy Fortner combined with Peters to score 14 points for the Lobos in the high jump. The Fort Sumner, N.M. product matched her career-high with a mark of 5' 5" two days after failing to clear her opening height of 5' 3" in the pentathlon high jump. New Mexico finished with two jumpers in the top-5 for the second straight year.
Men's 60m Hurdles: In his first MWC 60-meter hurdles finals appearance, senior Mark Lamb clocked a altitude-adjusted time of 8.20 - his second-fastest of the year - to place fifth. Lamb had never finished better than 10th in his first two MWC Indoor Championship meets.
Men's Pole Vault: With 2006 indoor All-American and MWC runner-up Robert Caldwell redshirting, freshman Matt Hull and junior Zach Graham stepped up to score five points in the event. Hull surpassed the 16-foot mark for the first time, clearing 16' 1 ¾" to place sixth, while Graham battled through a sprained ankle to record a season-best mark of 15' 7 ¾" in a seventh place finish.
Women's 4x400m Relay: Running for the first time together this season, the team of Ariel Burr, Kirstan Matison, Sandy Fortner and Christina Zarrella smashed the UNM indoor record by nearly two seconds, clocking a time of 3:47.66 in a sixth place finish. Matison and Fortner turned in tenacious legs for the Lobos. Matison left everything she had on the track, collapsing as she made the exchange to Fortner. Fortner capped her strong weekend finish in her first appearance with the UNM 4x400m "A" team.
Men's 800m: True freshman Brian Vallie clocked a season-best altitude-adjusted time of 1:52.70 to finish sixth in the 800 finals. The Hardin, Mont. native surged in the final 200 meters to pick off a pair of runners. Vallie entered the meet seeded 11th in the event.
Men's 60m: After advancing to the 60-meter finals by the smallest of margins, rookie Terence Brown moved up a spot to finish seventh in his third meet of the year. Brown, a safety on the Lobo football team, clocked an altitude-adjusted time of 7.09 for the second day in a row.