Sept. 23, 2003
The University of New Mexico men's and women's cross country teams travel to North Carolina for the 5th annual Great American Cross Country Festival on Friday, Sept. 26. SAS Soccer Park in Cary, N.C. will be the site of one of the biggest cross country meets in the nation as 400+ teams and over 4,000 runners from 29 states are set to compete. The two-day event, now under the auspices of the National Scholastic Sports Foundation, will feature 37 nationally ranked collegiate and high school teams teams in 30 races. College races begin the competition on Friday at 1:15 p.m. (EST). High school races will begin early Saturday morning at 7:30 a.m. and continue throughout the day.
The Great American Cross Country Festival will move for the third time in its history to a new permanent home, SAS Soccer Park. The newly designed course will begin inside the multimillion dollar 7,000 seat soccer stadium that served as the home of the WUSA's Carolina Courage. After a spectacular introduction featuring a drum line, balloons and much fanfare, runners will make their way through the SAS Soccer Park grounds before finishing in the stadium.
There will be eight college races in all with the featured race being the NIKE Race of Champions, set to go off at 4:15 p.m. for the women and 4:40 for the men.
The women's race should be a real battle as 10 nationally ranked teams toe the starting line. Last year's Great American winner, Brigham Young University, returns to defend its title. The Cougars captured the 2002 NCAA Championship last year and entered this season ranked No. 1. This will be their first true test of the season.
Individually, 2002 NCAA Cross Country Champion, Shalene Flanagan of the University of North Carolina returns to defend her title. Flanagan will begin her junior season with an eye on a second national cross country title and a berth in next summer's Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. She earned favorite status this past June in Palo Alto, CA after placing second in the 5,000 meter run at USATF Championships.
The men's NIKE Race of Champions will be an equally tough field as eight nationally ranked teams vie for the title. Last year's defending Great American champ and this year's preseason No. 5, Northern Arizona, will be the favorite. The Lumberjacks will be challenged by No. 7 Michigan and eighth-ranked Central Michigan. Defending individual champ, Northern Arizona's Henrik Ahnstrom, also returns to defend his title.
Complete information and results from the 2003 Great American Cross Country Festival can be found on the official website of the National Scholastic Sports Foundation:
NEW MEXICO TRAVEL SQUAD
UNM head coach Matt Henry will take 14 men and women, including five first-year runners, to North Carolina. The women's varsity team will be composed of: Jr. Jacquelyne Gallegos, Fr. Myrriah Gomez, Sr. Sarah Gonzales, Sr. Brooke Gosling, Fr. Riann Lucy, So. Timmie Murphy and So. Janice Tosa. Meanwhile, senior Sean Flaherty leads a men's squad which will also include: Fr. Chris Bratton, Jr. Nate Clem, Sr. Leighton Katsuda, Fr. Juan Ortega, Sr. Chris Rogers and So. Brandon Vigil. Promising freshman Steven Martinez will stay home in Albuquerque to rest a sore Achilles, joining sophomore Karina Hill-Hurtado, who is undergoing treatment for a knee injury.
LAST TIME OUT
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Senior Sean Flaherty finished 18th to lead the University of New Mexico men's cross country team to a fourth place finish (out of 14) in its season-opening meet, the Lobo Invitational, on Sept. 13. True freshman Riann Lucy placed 27th to help the Lobo women finish fifth (out of 13) in front of a large crowd of several thousand fans at the UNM North Golf Course.
"I'm really pleased with how well we ran today," said UNM head coach Matt Henry. "This was really our first hard workout of the fall, which is part of our plan. We want to keep our kids healthy and we want to prepare for a strong finish this season."
The UNM men received strong performances from Flaherty and several young runners. After running in the middle of the pack for the first half of the 8,000-meter race, Flaherty worked his way up course to finish with a time of 25:40, less than a minute off the winner, Will Banks (24:45) of Western State College.
"If I could ever get Sean to take the lead front the start, he'd be an NCAA champion," joked Henry. "He ran a great race though. He knows he's got to be our senior leader this year and I'm pleased with how he's running right now."
New Mexico freshman Steven Martinez was a strong 33rd (26:32) in his collegiate debut, followed by promising sophomore Brandon Vigil, who was 34th (26:36). Junior Nate Clem was 38th (26:43), while freshman Juan Ortega finished 40th (26:48) in his first collegiate race to give the Lobos a score of 129. No. 23 Colorado State (36 pts.) was a 14-point winner in the men's team competition, followed by defending NCAA Division II national champion Western State (49), and UTEP (101).
Earlier in the women's race, Lucy finished with a time of 23:56 to lead a tight pack of Lobos to a score of 161. The former Cibola High School standout, who overcame a week-long cold, surged past a pair of runners down the final 100 meters of the 6,000m course.
"It was a lot harder than I thought," Lucy said of her debut. "But it was great to be out here wearing the cherry and silver in front of all of these fans."
Sophomore Timmie Murphy turned in a solid performance with a 32nd place (24:23) finish, while senior Sarah Gonzales was 35th (24:31). Second-year runner Janice Tosa was 38th (24:45), while true freshman Myrriah Gomez finished 50th (25:47) in her strong debut to round out the UNM scoring.
UTEP's Adriana Pirtea (22:10) and Alba Garcia (22:27) finished 1-2, but CSU placed four runners in the top nine to take the team title with 36 points. Texas Tech was the runner-up with 62 points, followed by UTEP (70), and defending D-II champs Western State (79).