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Lobos Make Rare Trip North For MWC Outdoor Championship Meet
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  05/09/2006
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

May 9, 2006

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UPCOMING

The University of New Mexico men's and women's track and field teams travel to Provo, Utah this week for the 2006 Mountain West Conference Outdoor Championship meet. New Mexico is making its first trip to Utah since the 2000 season, when the inaugural MWC Outdoor Championships were held in Provo. The meet opens on Wednesday, May 10 at BYU's Clarence F. Robison Track and concludes on Saturday, May 13.

THE MWC OUTDOOR CHAMPIONSHIPS AT A GLANCE

Results: Final meet results will be available online at www.themwc.com.

Schedule: The men's decathlon and women's heptathlon will be held on Wednesday and Thursday afternoon, beginning at noon each day. Qualifying and finals for the remainder of the track & field events run from 11 - 6 on Friday, May 12 and 10 - 3:30 on Saturday, May 13.

Last Time In Utah: BYU hasn't hosted the MWC Outdoor Championship meet since 2000, which was also the last time New Mexico travelled to the state of Utah. UNM finished sixth on the women's side (71 points) and fifth (45 points) in the men's standings at the 2000 MWC meet. This will be the first time head coach Matt Henry has led his team into Provo.

2005 MWC Outdoor Championships Points Returning/Lost:
Women: 46 (71%)/18.5 (29%)
The New Mexico women lost a pair of all-MWC honorees in throwers Amanda Barnes and Veronica Gonzales, but the team's prospects are promising on paper with nearly 3/4 of the 2005 point scorers competing this weekend, including all-conference athletes Kristan Matison (100m), Ariel Burr (400m), Jacquelyne Gallegos (5,000m), Jamie Fishencord (hammer) and three of the four members of the 4x100 relay team.

Men: 41 (38%)/66.5 (62%)
The UNM men's team will be without many of its point scorers from a year ago, including `05 high-point man Dan Feltman (decathlon & javelin) who is redshirting the outdoor season. All-MWC honorees Shadrack Kiptoo-Biwott (800 & 1,500) and Jordan Parker (discus) are also gone, but the Lobos return defending javelin champion Matt Keeran along with 400-meter runner-up Jarrin Solomon and three members of the second place 4x400m relay team. UNM faced a similar scenario during the winter, missing well over 3/4 of its point scorers from the 2005 indoor championships. The Lobos, however, went on to match their highest score ever at the MWC Indoor Championships in 2006.

Final Chance To Qualify: The MWC Championships will likely be the final chance for most athletes to reach qualifying standards before the NCAA regional meets begin on May 26. UNM has already qualified seven men and four women for the NCAA regional meet, while freshman Sandy Fortner has reached the provisional standard in the heptathlon. Fortner, however, will likely need to add another 100 points to her top score in the seven-event competition. Distance runners Jeremy Johnson, Leslie Luna and Jacquelyne Gallegos, the men's and women's 4x100 relay teams and sprinters Aaron Brack and Kristan Matison are the Lobos' top candidates to join the NCAA regional field this week.

Provo Weather Forecast: The weather should be favorable with sunny skies and warm temperatures forecast for the four-day meet. The forecast during Friday and Saturday's track and field events calls for highs in the mid-70s and winds between nine and 13 miles per hour. Humidity will be around 30 percent and there is a 20 percent chance of precipitation during the meet.

NEW MEXICO AT THE MWC OUTDOOR CHAMPIONSHIPS

Since head coach Matt Henry took over the program in 2001, the New Mexico men have enjoyed a remarkable turnaround at the Mountain West Conference Outdoor Championships. UNM has averaged 102 points at the meet over the past five seasons, nearly three times their scoring average (37 points) in the 10 years (1991-2000) before Henry's arrival. The Lobo men scored an average of 12 points at the MWC meet from 1992-2000. In 2002, Henry was named Mountain West Conference Men's Outdoor Coach of the Year after New Mexico put up 125.5 points, its best performance since 1989. Hank Baskett (high jump - `04), Dan Feltman (decathlon - `05), Matt Gonzales (5,000 - `04), Mark Johnson (decathlon - `02), Matt Keeran (javelin - `05) and Ben Ortega (10,000 - `01) have each earned gold medals at the MWC Outdoor meet and have helped New Mexico earn all-MWC honors 34 times over the past five years.

The UNM women, meanwhile, turned in their highest MWC point total under Henry last year in Fort Collins, Colo. and have averaged 56 points since he took over the program in 2001. The Lobos averaged 35 points at the outdoor conference championship meets from 1994-2000. The New Mexico women have captured at least one event title in six of the past seven seasons and stood atop the awards podium eight times at the MWC Outdoor Championships. Amanda Barnes won consecutive outdoor shot put champion (2003-04), while Monique Harris won the triple jump three straight years (2000-02). Arline Smith swept the 200 and 400 in 2001 and Bridgid Isworth won the pole vault in 2004. New Mexico athletes have earned all-MWC honors 22 times during Henry's tenure, including seven awards last spring which matched the most since the team joined the conference.

LOBO SCOUTING REPORT

Women
While depth is always a concern for the coaching staff, New Mexico has legitimate scoring threats in most event and will be aiming for its first top-five finish at the MWC outdoor meet. It's also a young team, dominated by freshmen and sophomores, that will only get better in the years to come.

Heptathlon - Sandy Fortner has already established herself as one of the best freshman heptathletes ever to compete at UNM. A graduate of tiny class 1A Fort Sumner (N.M.) High School, Fortner has had little trouble adjusting to Division I competition, ranking third in the MWC and 38th in the nation with a top score of 5,088. An improvement of 100 points this week could put her in the NCAA Championship meet and likely a spot on the all-MWC team as well.

Sprints/Relays - Sophomores Ariel Burr and Kristan Matison are the Lobos' top threats in the sprints, both earning all-MWC honors in 2005. Burr is the No. 2 seed in the 400 after finishing third in the event outdoors as a freshman and second indoors this past winter. She hasn't lost a race in over a month and will be one of the favorites to win the event on Saturday. Matison, meanwhile, enters the meet seeded fifth in the 100, an event she finished third in last year, and 10th in the 200. Another all-MWC performance in the 100 and a berth in the 200 finals are both well within reach for her. Matison, Burr, Tabatha Shaw and Shakira Williams also comprise the Lobos' all sophomore 4x100m relay team (No. 4 seed), which will be looking to earn all-MWC honors for the second straight season. The third-seeded UNM 4x400 team, led by Burr and Williams, is a bit of an unknown with Matison set to run with the group for the first time and Sandy Fortner slated to make just her second appearance of the season. If the new combination clicks, however, all-MWC honors and an NCAA regional qualifying time could be the reward.

Long Distance - Redshirt freshman Leslie Luna and senior Jacquelyne Gallegos appear to be hitting their stride at the perfect time of year. Seeded second and third, respectively, the duo are both all-MWC candidates in the 5,000 and could make a run at the NCAA regional qualifying time in the event as well. Gallegos was three seconds shy of the MWC 5,000 title last spring, while Luna finished seventh in the 3,000 during the past indoor season. BYU's Chelsea McKell is the favorite in the 5K, but Luna and Gallegos are both very capable of the upset. McKell is also top seed in the 10,000m, but sophomore Lindsey Barr was fifth in the event last year and should be one of the top-5 runners again on Friday.

Jumps/Pole Vault - Outdoor school record holder Whitney Johnson (So.) enters the meet as the No. 3 seed in the pole vault and will be looking to take home the all-MWC award she narrowly missed out on a year ago. Fellow sophomore Tiyana Peters (No. 4 seed) earned all-conference honors in the high jump during the winter and could end up battling for the gold medal with a strong effort on Friday afternoon. Sandy Fortner is the No. 5 seed in the long jump, where she has improved by over a foot since the season began, and should give the team a nice scoring punch. Freshman Hagit Salamon, meanwhile, has battled injuries this spring, but could be a surprising force in the triple jump (6th seed) and long jump (19th seed) if she feels healthy and pain-free this weekend.

Throws - Rookie Katie Coronado enters the meet as the No. 3 seed in the javelin where she will look to give UNM a medalist for the third straight season. Senior Jessica McIntyre (9th seed) also has the ability to provide solid points in the event when on her game. Fifth-year senior Jamie Fishencord is the sixth seed in the hammer throw, but was an all-MWC honoree in the event last spring. She could also give the Lobos a boost in the discus, where she's ranked eighth.

Men
Despite the loss of 2005 high point scorer Dan Feltman (redshirting outdoors), the Lobos will still look to do much of their damage in the field events this week. UNM also has several scoring options sprinkled throughout the sprints, hurdles and distance events, along with two strong relay teams. The entire team, however, will need to be at its best this week if it's to surpass the 100-point mark outdoors for the second straight year - a feat that hasn't happened since the 1989-90 seasons.

Sprints/Hurdles/Relays - With the TCU sprint factory now a fixture in the league points will be hard to come by in the 100 and 200, but senior Aaron Brack could make some noise in the 100. Brack, the No. 9 seed, was seventh in the event last year and placed fourth in the 60m dash at the 2006 MWC Indoor Championships. UNM will look to get solid points out of the 400 with 2005 runner-up Jarrin Solomon and finalist Randle McCain back in the mix. Solomon enters the meet as the fourth seed, but won't be afraid to challenge top-seeded Lewis Banda of TCU. McCain (No. 10 seed), freshman Taylor Siemon (No. 6 seed) and sophomore Kurt Henry (No. 11 seed) will look to give the Lobos as many scoring chances as possible in the event. The foursome also comprises the MWC's fourth-seeded 4x400m relay team, while Brack, Siemon, Solomon and rookie Phillip Merritt have posted the third-fastest time in the 4x100 relay. Both squads will be in contention for all-MWC honors. In the hurdles, meanwhile, junior Mark Lamb has a good chance to score in the 110m event, where he is seeded eighth, and could also find himself in the finals of the 400m hurdles (No. 11 seed) with a big effort in the prelims.

Long Distance - Junior Jeremy Johnson has stepped in and provided a real presence for UNM in the distance events in his first year of competition for the track program. Johnson, the No. 2 seed in the 5,000m, will make a run at TCU's top-seeded fifth-year senior Kip Kangogo as well as the NCAA regional qualifying time in the event. Junior Juan Ortega and sophomore Joseph Garcia, meanwhile, will be counted on to give the Lobos some solid points in the 10,000m, where they are currently ranked among the top-five runners.

Jumps - While the group has had its ups and downs this spring, the trio of senior Mike Powdrell, sophomore Domnick Meadows and freshman Josh Cosio could give the Lobos a major boost in all three jumping events. Powdrell is ranked second in the long jump and fourth in the high jump, where he earned all-MWC honors as a rookie in 2002. After a bit of a sluggish performance in his last meet, a rested Powdrell will look to become the first Lobo to win the long jump in over 20 years. A fifth place finisher during the recent indoor season, Meadows is currently the No. 4 seed in the long jump and could bring home his first medal in the event. He's also ranked seventh in the triple jump, the same position he finished in at the `06 indoor meet. Cosio, meanwhile, has shown gold medal potential in the high jump (No. 2 seed) and is a strong candidate for all-MWC honors this week.

Pole Vault - Led by a pair of 2006 NCAA Indoor Championships qualifiers and all-MWC honorees in senior Derek Mackel and junior Robert Caldwell, the UNM pole vault crew is among the league's best. Mackel, the No. 3 seed, has never cleared a bar at the MWC outdoor meet during his career, despite qualifying for the NCAA regionals three straight years, while sixth-seeded Caldwell, an All-American and MWC runner-up indoors, has yet to clear 17 feet outdoors this spring. Both men, however, are still threats to not only medal, but also challenge for the league title every time they step on the runway. Sophomore Zach Graham (No. 8 seed) and redshirt freshman Adam Martinez (No. 9 seed) could also give the Lobos some key points in the event.

Javelin - With the MWC boasting its most talented group in league history, any points scored in the javelin on Saturday will have been well-earned. UNM fifth-year senior Matt Keeran (No. 4 seed) is back to defend his conference title, while Lobo freshman Anthony Fairbanks (No. 6 seed) has established himself as a legitimate gold medal contender as well. Keeran and Fairbanks are among the record six MWC competitors who have thrown over 213 feet this year in what should be one of the marquee events this week in Provo.

THESE ARE NEW MEXICO'S LOBOS

Over the past six years UNM head coach Matt Henry has worked to rebuild the track and field program primarily using in-state and in-city athletes. Few D-I athletics programs in the state of New Mexico can match Lobo track and field when it comes to being a truly New Mexican product.Zia pride is what fuels the program, coaches and athletes alike.

The 2006 roster features 75 in-state products, including 38 from the Duke City. Thirty-one men and women are former New Mexico high school track & field champions. More and more, the elite athletes in the state are choosing to stay home at New Mexico, even declining offers from big name out-of-state schools with greater financial resources.

The best sprinter in the state this year, Albuquerque Cibola's Tressi Richardson, recently picked UNM over North Carolina and Oklahoma, and Albuquerque Highland's Kelly McCabe (4-time 5A state champion) also signed with the Lobos this spring. Former Highland javelin star Anthony Fairbanks signed last year, as did Albuquerque JournalFemale Athlete of the Year Sandy Fortner (Fort Sumner). Two years ago, the Henry's also landed the best female sprinter in the state in Carrizozo's Ariel Bur, while La Cueva's Jarrin Solomon passed up an offer to play soccer at North Carolina to stay home and sprint for UNM.

The New Mexico connection is just as strong with the coaching staff as Matt Henry (Albuquerque), Mark Henry (Albuquerque), Scott Steffan (Aztec, N.M.), Keren Bentzur (Israel) and Matt Kraft (Albuquerque) all competed at and graduated from the University of New Mexico.

RECORD BURR-EAKER

In just two years, sophomore Ariel Burr has cemented herself as the greatest quarter-miler in UNM women's history. After breaking the school's 16-year old indoor record in February, Burr shattered her own outdoor record in the 400 by 0.68 seconds last week at the Mt. SAC Relays. The 5-4 Burr won the Olympic Development section of the event with a time of 53.48, the second-fastest in the Mountain West Conference this year and over a second under the NCAA regional qualifying standard. The two-time indoor/outdoor all-MWC honoree will attempt to become just the third UNM woman ever to win a conference title in the 400 outdoors, joining Arline Smith (2001) and Shannon Vessup (1983). The Lobos have never had a woman qualify for the national championship meet in the 400.

One of 14 graduates in the class of 2004 at tiny Carrizozo High School (town population 1,043) in southeast New Mexico, Burr dominated the class 1A competition throughout her prep career, capturing 14 individual gold medals and an additional four relay titles in state track meet appearances. She was the top 100 and 400-meter runner in any class as a senior.

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