Kirwa's Victory Sparks No. 24 Lobo Men At Notre Dame
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  10/02/2009
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Oct. 2, 2009

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Senior Jacob Kirwa won for the second time in as many races this fall to lead the 24th-ranked University of New Mexico men's cross country team to a share of third place (151 points) this afternoon at the Notre Dame Invitational. Kirwa sprinted past Arizona State All-American Brandon Bethke down the final stretch as New Mexico defeated four top-30 teams in the field, including No. 11 Tulsa (seventh).

The No. 25 UNM women, meanwhile, finished a strong sixth in the loaded field, edging No. 3 Florida State by a single point, 178-179. All five teams that finished above the Lobos were ranked in the top-25.

Kirwa, who was a 50-second winner in the Lobo Invitational on Sept. 5, covered the 8K course at the Notre Dame Golf Course in 23:44 - one second ahead of Bethke in a battle of reigning conference 5,000-meter champions on the track. Bethke followed his Pac-10 title with a fourth place finish in the 5K at the 2009 NCAA Outdoor Championships.

Kirwa's victory was the first by a Lobo in a road meet since former All-American Matt Gonzales took the 2004 NCAA Mountain Region title in Fort Collins, Colo.

Senior transfer Chris Barnicle was 27th (24:21) in his Lobo cross country debut, while fellow senior David Bishop was three seconds behind in 32nd place (24:24). True freshman Ross Millington was a surprising 41st (24:24) in his official collegiate debut and senior Rory Fraser was 50th (24:46) in his season debut to cap the Lobo scoring. The top five were separated by 1:02.

New Mexico tied No. 20 Butler, although the Lobos' No. 6 man - redshirt freshman Allen Pittman (104th) - finished higher than the Bulldogs' sixth runner. No. 22 Washington won the team title with a score of 113.

On the women's side, New Mexico put four runners in the top-40 with junior transfer Ruth Senior leading the way for the second straight meet. Senior finished a strong 12th, completing the women's 5K loops in 17:03 - six seconds ahead of senior Nicky Archer who was 17th (17:09). Senior Ashley Gibson and sophomore Lacey Oeding crossed the finish line side-by-side, placing 33rd (17:23) and 36th (17:24), respectively. True freshman Janna Mistos was the fifth scorer for the Lobos', finishing 81st (17:51). Despite the discrepancy in order of finish, the top five UNM runners were separated by just 48 seconds.

"We didn't run great on either side, but we came out here and did what we needed to do," said third-year head coach Joe Franklin. "Jacob Kirwa ran a strong, smart race and out-kicked one of the best runners in the country. We beat some strong teams on the women's side as well and I think you could see both the men and women in the top-20 next week."

Elsewhere, junior transfer Keith Gerrard cruised to victory in the men's 8K open race. The Isle of Man (United Kingdom) product crossed the line in 25:25 - 33 seconds ahead of the nearest competitor - in his second race in the cherry and silver.

New Mexico will send a split squad to Elephant Butte, N.M. next week for a rare neutral site meet against New Mexico State dubbed the "Duel In The Desert", while the full squad returns to action on Oct. 17 at the NCAA Pre-Nationals meet in Terre Haute, Ind.