Stevens: On Your Mark, Set, Go-- For Repeat Titles
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  10/27/2011
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Oct. 27, 2011

Mountain West Cross Country Championships - Fort Collins, Colo.

When/Where: Saturday, Collindale Golf Course
Men: 10 a.m. -- eight kilometers
Women: 11 a.m. -- six kilometers
Results: On GoLobos.com, The MWC.com.

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

"This is the time that matters," says Coach Joe Franklin. "This is what we talk about in August. This is championship time."

The championship time of 2010 was very good to the University of New Mexico men's and women's cross country teams. They won the Mountain West titles. They won the NCAA Mountain Regional crowns. It was an amazing year.

Can they do it again?

The first part of that question will be answered Saturday in Fort Collins, Colo., at the Mountain West Championships. The Lobo women, who return the 1-2-3 finishers from 2010, are favorites to outrun Colorado State to the title.

The men probably have a bigger chore on their hands with Air Force the top threat and CSU the dark horse.

"On the men's side, it looks like a one or two-point meet between us, Air Force and Colorado State," said Franklin. "On the women's side, Colorado State has three quality frontrunners and we have at least three frontrunners, but we should get them on our depth.

"This will be the first time we will have the whole women's team on the line and they are running very well. We're deep and we're pretty good. We just need to hit on the same day. "

The Lobos return 2010 MWC champion, Natalie Gray, and 2010 runner-up, Sarah Waldron. Ruth Senior finished third at that chilly meet in Laramie, Wyo. These three Lobos are expected to be pressed by TCU junior Agnes Kemboi, who has clocked the best 6K time in the MW this season, and CSU senior Nicole Peters, who has the league's No.2 mark.

UNM's depth will come from Kirsty Milner, Lacey Oeding, Kirsten Follett, Shawna Winnegar, Imogen Ainsworth and Josephine Moultrie. It is that depth which is expected to hand the 20th-ranked UNM women their fourth consecutive MW title.

"This is an incredibly important meet for us," said Franklin. "The women are looking at four in a row and the men are looking at three in a row. That's an incredible accomplishment."

Franklin, who probably could give you six reasons why a six-inch putt could be missed, is looking at a dogfight between his Lobos, Air Force and CSU. The Falcons probably have the best shot at upsetting the Lobos behind Falcon ace Jim Walmsley, who has the MW's second-best time (24:15.3).

However, the best 8K run this season has come from UNM's Ross Millington at 24:08.0. A key to UNM's third straight title might be Nicholas Kipruto, who goes to Fort Collins nursing a sore knee. He might not run.

"It will be a coin toss going into the last 1,000 meters," said Franklin. "It will come down to pride that last 1,000 meters. You have to beat the guy running next to you. "

The Lobos depth behind Millington and Kipruto will come from Sean Stam, Allen Pittman, Patrick Ortiz, Pierre Malherbe, Matt Everett, Edwin Herring and Mike Asay.

At last year's meet, the Lobo women won 20-60 over CSU. The Men won 40-53 over BYU (no longer in the MW) while Air Force had 68 points.

Note: The MountainWest Sports Network will air a 30-minute review show of the 2011 Mountain West Cross Country Championships on Thursday, Nov. 3 at 7 p.m. (MT). The show will include interviews with coaches and student-athletes and race highlights.

Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former Associate Sports Editor and Sports Columnist for The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at rstevens50@comcast.net