May 14, 2005
FORT COLLINS, COLO. - The University of New Mexico men and women earned all-conference honors 11 times today on the final day of the 2005 Mountain West Conference Outdoor Track and Field Championships en route to their best combined performance at a conference meet in 15 years. Junior Matt Keeran unleashed the best throw of his career to pull off the upset victory in the javelin, while freshman Ariel Burr smashed the UNM 400-meter record in an all-MWC performance. The New Mexico men scored 107.5 points to finish fourth, while the women tallied their best score since 2000, to finish sixth (64.5 points). BYU swept the men's and women's titles for the second straight year.
The men surpassed the 100-point plateau for the second time in the past four years, under fifth-year head coach Matt Henry. It was the team's second-highest output since 1990, only behind the 125.5 points scored by Henry's 2002 team. Prior to Henry's arrival, the Lobos had gone 11 straight years without reaching the century mark.
After a finishing last for the second time in school history in 2004, the New Mexico women moved up two spots on Saturday to earn their best place in the standings since 2001. The Lobos finished just 1.5 points behind of fifth place UNLV.
The men and women combined for 172 points over the four-day meet, the best combined scoring output since 1990 when the men finished third in the Western Athletic Conference Championships and the women were the runners-up in the High Country Athletic Conference.
"We had a pretty darn good day today," Henry said. "Nothing ever goes perfectly, but we had several people do a super job for us, especially on the women's side where we had to overcome a big injury. This really was a great day for New Mexico track and field. We're getting better each year and with the way our young kids performed today, I'd say the future looks pretty bright for us."
Keeran's improbable victory in the javelin secured his place as the Lobos' comeback athlete of the year. After earning all-MWC honors as a freshman (third place) and sophomore (second place), Keeran redshirted the 2004 season to undergo surgery on his throwing elbow. The Albuquerque La Cueva product traveled a slow road to recovery this spring, competing just three times and entering the meet as the No. 6 seed with a top mark of 191-04, his only throw over 190 feet since 2003.
Keeran, however, notched a season-best throw of 194 feet in the preliminaries, an effort he later said he was content to finish the season with. With nothing to lose on his final attempt, he launched the javelin a career-best and NCAA regional qualifying distance of 211' 5", becoming the first Lobo to win the event since Donnie Lujan in 1991 and just the second UNM javelin winner since 1972. Keeran was one of three Lobos to score in the event as he and juniors Dan Feltman (4th - 197-08) and Reuben Trujillo (8th - 186-06) combined for 16 points.
Feltman's performance netted him UNM high-point athlete of the meet honors with 15, including 10 points for winning the decathlon on Thursday. Freshman Shadrack Kiptoo-Biwott finished just behind Feltman with 14 points in a pair of all-MWC runs in the 800 and 1,500 meters. Kiptoo-Biwott placed third in the 800 with a time of 1:50.76*, just off the regional qualifying standard, and was second in the 1,500 with a time of 3:48.38*.
"I'm very please with what Shadrack was able to do today," said Henry. "He had an hour and ten minutes between the 1,500 and 800 and to earn all-conference honors in both events was outstanding. I don't think there's anybody else in the conference who did what he did and we're hoping he'll keep it going in two weeks at the regional meet."
Fellow freshman Jarrin Solomon extended his season with a scintillating runner-up performance in the 400. The son of former Lobo national champion Michael Solomon, Jarrin blazed to a time of 47.05* to join the NCAA Midwest Regional field. He finished 0.25 seconds behind BYU senior David Chesser. Sophomore Randle McCain grabbed the eighth place point in the event with a time of 49.50*.
Solomon led a stellar performance by the UNM associate head coach Mark Henry's sprinters. The Lobo men scored 17 points in the 100 and 200 behind the efforts of senior Ahmed Raji (5th - 100, 5th - 200), sophomore Jeramie White (5th - 200, 6th - 100), senior Aaron Brack (7th - 100) and freshman Marcus Smith (6th - 200). The team of McCain, Solomon, Kurt Henry and White clocked a season-best time of 3:12.29* to finish second in the 4x400-meter relay, giving the Lobos its fourth all-MWC team in the past five years. The new starting 4x100 team of Raji, Smith, Solomon and White appeared headed to the Lobos' first conference title in the short relay in 38 years, but the team mistimed its final exchange and was disqualified.
Despite the loss of crew leader Kimilia Davis to a hamstring injury on Friday, the Lobos' women's sprinters turned their best performance in five years. Freshman Kristan Matison opened the day by becoming the first UNM woman ever to earn all-Mountain West honors in the 100, placing third with a time of 11.92*. Matison, who was also eighth in the 200, came back to lead a spirited performance by the 4x100 team. Ranked fourth entering the meet and missing one of its top threats in Davis, the team of Matison, Burr, fellow freshman Tabatha Shaw and senior Erin Teske flew to a time of 46.40* to place third and earn all-conference honors for the first time since 2000. Teske, who had yet to run on the short relay in 2005, filled in admirably for Davis, taking the baton for the anchor leg in the final race of her career.
Burr later turned in one of the highlights of the meet with a third place finish in the 400. The product of tiny Carrizozo, N.M. flew to a time of 54.11* to earn a spot in the Midwest Regional field and the all-MWC team while shaving 0.13 seconds off Arline Smith's four-year old record.
Junior distance runner Jacquelyne Gallegos also turned in a stellar performance, finishing second in the 5,000 with a time of 17:09.96*, just 2.56 seconds behind the winner, Rena Williams-Chesser of BYU. Gallegos moved up three spots from fifth place down the final stretch and just ran out of room as she tried to catch the fading Cougar. Gallegos earned all-conference honors for the second straight year after placing third in the 1,500 last spring.
Senior Veronica R. Gonzales placed third in the javelin to earn all-MWC honors for the second straight year. The Carlsbad, N.M. native recorded her third-best throw of the year (148-05), but will continue her season in two weeks at the regional meet.
In perhaps the most anticipated field event battle of the day, New Mexico senior Amanda Barnes fell short in her attempt to win her third straight shot put crown. While Barnes's mark of 51' 7.75" was nearly four feet ahead of the third place finisher, Colorado State All-American Loree Smith continued her dominance of the throwing events with a conference record toss of 54' 9.5" in her first shot put competition of the outdoor season. Smith also won the hammer and discus on Friday to earn the league's High-Point award.
Other scorers for the Lobos included: sophomore Riann Lucy (5th - 800), 4x400m relay team (5th), freshman Whitney Johnson (4th - pole vault), senior Katie Coles (T8th - pole vault), senior Nick Martinez (5th - 5,000m), freshman Derek McDonald (6th - 110m hurdles), sophomore Mark Lamb (8th - 400m hurdles), senior Willie Yuen (7th - triple jump).
*Indicates altitude adjusted time.