Stevens: Natalie Gray Paces Lobo Women to No. 5 NCAA Finish; UNM Men No. 16
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  11/22/2010
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Nov. 22, 2010

Women's Individual Results / Women's Team Results
Men's Individual Results / Men's Team Results

Lobo Cross Country -- At NCAA Championships
Monday, Terre Haute, Indiana
Women: No. 5 (Natalie Gray 15th; Ruth Senior 33rd)
Men: No. 16 (Keith Gerrard 40th, David Bishop 41st)

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

TERRE HAUTE, IND. - As far as Lobos went, junior Natalie Gray stole the show with her 15th-place finish at the NCAA D-I Championships to pace the University of New Mexico women to a fifth-place finish - the highest in UNM women's history.

For Lobo coach Joe Franklin it was a blustery Monday of mixed feelings as his Lobo women ran to their potential, but the UNM men, ranked No. 5 going into the meet, had a bad day and finished in 16th place.

"It's a strange day for me," said Franklin. "I had a good day and a not so good day. I never thought I'd be disappointed finishing 16th (men).

"The women ran just about as well as they could. They had a good day. The men had a bad day. We had a couple of guys really struggle and it hurt us. Natalie ran a super race."

Villanova repeated as the women's national champions and Oklahoma State threw out a minor surprise in dominating the men's side to defend its 2009 title. Villanova's Sheila Reid won the women's individual crown and Liberty's Sam Chelanga defended his title in the men's 10-kilometer run.

UNM's Gray earned NCAA All-American status and was joined in that honor by Ruth Senior and Keith Gerrard.

"I'm very happy with my performance," said Gray. "The race felt slow because of all the wind, especially on the opening stretch. I felt really strong.

"At 4-K some people passed me and I just tried to hold on and not let too many pass me. I can't really complain. It's a good finish. The team ran really well. We had expected to get on the podium, but we're not disappointed. We expect to get better and better."

The Lobo women made a huge jump from their 13th -place finish in 2009. Despite the men's struggles in Terre Haute, the 2010 season still goes down as one of the greatest - and maybe the greatest - in Lobo history.

The Lobos went to nationals off team sweeps in the Mountain West Championships and also in the NCAA Mountain Regional. Both teams carried impressive No. 5 rankings into the NCAA's final run.

Gray came across the 6-kilometer finish line with a time of 20:29 followed by Senior at 20:47. The Lobos' 227 points also came from Sarah Waldron (20:56) in 44th place, Kirsty Milner (21:03) in 56th place and Delyth James (21:43) in 146th place. The Lobos were 60 points behind No. 4 Georgetown, which had 167 points.

Gerrard had a 30:33 to finish in the 40th spot. David Bishop was a second back at 30:34 to finish 41st. UNM Ross Millington was 81st at 31:09, Brock Hagerman was 103rd at 31:25 and Rory Fraser was 123rd at 31:36. The Lobos were only 59 points away from a Top Ten finish.

Stanford, carrying a No. 1 ranking, was a slight favorite on the men's side with No. 2 Oregon and No. 3 Oklahoma State capable of grabbing the title. Oklahoma State powered to an impressive win scoring 73 points to blow away No. 2 Florida State which finished with 193 points. "It helped being strong in the middle," said Oklahoma State coach Dave Smith.

The back-to-back titles pushes Oklahoma State into the group of elite programs that have dominated men's cross country for the past 26 years: Arkansas, Oregon, Colorado, Wisconsin and Stanford. That Big Five combined to win 23 of the past 26 national titles and that group won 16 straight titles prior to Oklahoma State's win in 2009.

It was fitting, and expected, that Villanova won the women's title. The Wildcats ran beautifully all season and, more importantly, undefeated.