Feb. 13, 2005
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - Some of Northern New Mexico's finest distance running talent was on full display on Saturday morning at Arkansas' elite Powered by Tyson Invitational as Taos native Ben Ortega and Pojoaque's Jacquelyne Gallegos flew to victories in the 5,000 and 3,000 meters, respectively. Ortega improved on his own school record by nearly 20 seconds, crossing the line in an NCAA provisional qualifying time of 14:12.75. Gallegos, meanwhile, shaved eight seconds off her school record with a time of 9:45.99.
Gallegos bested a 29-woman field, finishing over five seconds ahead of the runner up, Baylor's Jessa Chance. Ortega, meanwhile, defeated 13 other runners and crossed the line almost seven seconds ahead of Harding University's Kosgei Julius. Though both Ortega and Gallegos had little trouble in the unseeded races, their times would have been good enough for top-10 finishes in the championship fields of the 5K and 3K as well.
Ortega surpassed the NCAA provisional qualifying standard for the first time in his four-year indoor career and will look to improve his chances for a national berth in two weeks when he toes the line at the Mountain West Conference Indoor Championships. The top-ranked 3K runner in the MWC so far this season, Gallegos, a junior in indoor eligibility, needs to drop her 3K time by an additional 11 seconds at the MWC Championships to be considered for the national meet.
In other action on Saturday, senior Amanda Barnes and true freshman Whitney Johnson both turned in season-best performances to lead the Lobos in the field events. Barnes elevated her own school record with a mark of 55-03.50 to finish 19th the championship weight throw field, then placed ninth out of 31 women in the championship shot put competition with a season-best toss of 48-02.00. Johnson, meanwhile, continued her outstanding debut season, notching a season-best in the pole vault for the third straight week with a mark of 12-08.75. Her height was actually tied for the fifth-best in the championship event, but she officially finished 11th in the field of 19 due to her number of attempts.
Elsewhere on Saturday, senior Cameron Clarke ran the fastest indoor mile of his career, finishing 10th in the unseeded race with a time of 4:11.56. Fellow senior Nate Clem clocked his PR as well, placing 19th with a time of 4:16.50.
Unfortunately, junior Derek Mackel and freshman Shadrack Kiptoo-Biwott did not have the performances they were hoping for in their championship events. Mackel was six inches under his season-best in the pole vault, finishing tied for 11th in the 20-man field with a mark of 16-04.75. Some of the nation's best also struggled in the event as UCLA's David Shortenhaus, the 10th-ranked vaulter in the country, matched Mackel in 11th place. Competing in the second indoor race of his career, Kiptoo-Biwott finished ninth in the elite championship mile field with a time of 4:13.50, which was seven seconds slower than his winning run the previous week in his debut at Northern Arizona.
New Mexico returns to action at the 2005 Mountain West Conference Indoor Track & Field Championships, which take place Feb. 24-26 at Cadet Fieldhouse in Colorado Springs.