Sept. 13, 2003
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 Saturday morning. 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, which were without redshirting standouts Matt Gonzales, Ben Ortega, Nick Martinez and Cameron Clarke, 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).
Henry's redesigned course featured more rolling hills which were not included in the NCAA Mountain Region Championship New Mexico hosted last fall. Henry said he added the hills to help his runners prepare for San Diego State's rolling course at Balboa Park, which will be the site of the 2003 Mountain West Conference Championships.
"I liked it," Lucy said of the redesigned course. "You do have to push yourself up the hills, but then you can use your momentum to glide back down."
The Lobo men and women get a week off before venturing east to Raleigh, N.C. for the Great American Classic, hosted by N.C. State, on Saturday, Sept. 26.