Sept. 9, 2006
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Timmie Murphy (2nd), Leslie Luna (3rd), Jeremy Johnson (3rd) and Juan Ortega (4th) all turned in career-best finishes to lead the University of New Mexico in its first meet of the 2006 cross country season, the Lobo Invitational, this morning at the UNM North Golf Course. Spurred on by a boisterous crowd of several thousand fans lining the winding course, the UNM women finished second, while the men were third in the 13-team field.
Murphy and Luna a junior, went out strong in the women's 6,000-meter race, leading the pack for the first two miles. Texas A&M rookie Merideth Snow, who drafted behind the two Lobos in third place for much of the race, surged over the final mile to take a seven-second victory (22:00). Murphy, Luna and Shannon Payne (4th) of CU-Colorado Springs all crossed the finish line less than one second apart, recording official times of 22:07.
Snow led a deep Aggie squad that put all seven runners in the top-15 en route to a 19-point victory over the Lobos (35-54). CU-Colorado Springs was third with 71 points, followed by UTEP (144), Fort Lewis College (146) and LSU (151). New Mexico improved a spot on its third place finish (89 points) at the 2005 Lobo Invitational.
Both Murphy and Luna improved dramatically on their performance at last year's home opener. Murphy placed 17th (23:13), while Luna was 19th (23:19) one year ago.
True freshman Vanessa Ortiz was outstanding in her Lobo debut, running third on the team and 11th overall with a time of 23:32. Junior Melanie Velarde finished 18th (24:05), while fellow junior Sheyenne Lewis used a late surge to place 20th (24:25), capping the UNM scoring. Senior Roxann James was 28th (24:44) and junior Lindsay Barr was 50th (25:56) to round out the top-7.
Earlier in the men's 8K, Johnson got out quickly and dictated the pace for much of the race before being passed late by UTEP All-American Stephen Samoei and freshman Nicodemus Ng'etich. Running at home for the first time since 2002, when he was fifth overall, Johnson finished just 12 second behind Samoei and five behind Ng'etich, crossing the line in 24:59.
Twenty-three seconds later, a roaring crowd helped Lobo senior Juan Ortega squeeze past UTEP's Patrick Mutai, the 2005 Lobo Invite winner, into fourth place (25:23). Ortega improved a stunning 36 spots from his performance at the meet last year, finishing among the top-10 for the second time in his career.
The Miners placed four runners in the top-6 and five in the top-15 good for a score of 29, 46 points better than runner-up Texas A&M (75). New Mexico put five runners in the top-30 to finish three points out of second (78) and 55 ahead of fourth place CU-Colorado Springs (133). Junior Joseph Garcia finished 20th (27:08), 26 spots above his 2005 performance, while rookie Brian Vallie was a pleasant surprise, placing 22nd overall (27:13). Vallie, out of Hardin, Mont., was one of two true freshmen in the Lobos' top-5, along with St. Pius X product Jason Petty (29th, 27:33). Junior Chris Bratton (27:41) and another rookie, Alex Willis (27:49) rounded out the top-7, placing 33rd and 39th, respectively.