March 14, 2009
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Lee Emanuel, Jarrin Solomon, and the University of New Mexico entered the 2009 NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships as relative unknowns. The senior duo, however, put New Mexico back on the national map with their sensational performances at the Gilliam Indoor Track Stadium today, helping the Lobos finish tied for 16th in the men's standings - their first top-20 finish since 1984.
Emanuel opened the day with a stirring victory in the men's mile (4:00.36), becoming the Lobos' first national track and field champion since Michael Solomon won the 600-yard run in 1977. Michael's son, Jarrin, followed that performance with a fifth place finish (46.55) in the 400 meters - the best finish ever by a UNM sprinter at the Indoor Championships.
The All-America duo scored 14 points for New Mexico - the second highest in program history at the NCAA Indoors and best since the 1978 men's team put up 15 points. The Lobos were the top team in the Mountain West Conference, well above conference champion BYU (T-41st - 4 points).
"It's a great accomplishment, but one that we hope to improve upon outdoors," said second-year UNM head coach Joe Franklin. "It was just a great day and great season."
Emanuel, who entered the meet as the No. 5 seed, was determined to make the mile an honest race. After moving into a comfortable second behind Michigan's Justin Switzer at the 400-meter mark, the Hastings, England product found himself boxed inside as the 11-man field chugged around the second 400 in a sluggish 64 seconds.
As the lead group swelled to five or six runners, Emanuel broke outside and grabbed the race by the reigns, taking the lead with roughly 700 meters (3 1/2 laps) to go. His next 400 was clocked at 59.21 as he and Wisconsin's Craig Miller began to distance themselves from the pack.
Miller sat back on Emanuel's right shoulder as the two hit the 200-meter bell lap. With roughly 100 meters to go Miller made his move, pulling even with Emanuel around the final turn. Emanuel, however, shifted into another gear, pumping his arms and accelerating onto the straightaway as Miller faded behind him.
"That was the plan all along," said Franklin. "We wanted to go at 700 meters and that's exactly what he did. It was one of the few times in coaching that things go exactly as you planned."
The best middle distance man in UNM history threw both arms into the air as he crossed the line, nearly a second ahead of Miller (4:01.34) and 1.83 seconds ahead of the popular race favorite, Dorian Ulrey of Arkansas (4:02.19). Emanuel's final 400 was timed at 54.81, including a 27.22 final lap.
"Our strategy was to come out and run strong the entire way," said Emanuel. "Coach told me that if I thought someone was catching up to me, to just run harder, and go after it. He knew I would be strong enough to do that.
"There at the end, I knew for sure that I could do it, and that it was a chance of a lifetime. So I pushed harder, and got the victory. I hope this puts my name on the map a bit more. This is just a great experience."
The victory left well-known ESPN360.com track and field commentator Dwight Stones clearly stunned, but impressed by the Lobo's performance.
"What an amazing improvement - in my opinion - that has been going on at the University of New Mexico," said Stones as the cameras followed Emanuel after the race. "My hat's off to them!"
Final Lap Of The Men's Mile
Thirty minutes later, Solomon made history of his own in the 400. After running the sixth-fastest preliminary time on Friday afternoon, Solomon drew the furthest lane outside, lane six, in the first of two finals sections (nine runners). The Albuquerque La Cueva product held off the inside runners as best he could, but hit the 200-meter break third (22.01) out of the five men in the section.
Just as he did in his past two races (Iowa State NCAA qualifier and Friday's prelims), however, Solomon swung wide off the final turn and reeled in Texas A&M senior Justin Oliver in the final 50 meters. Wake Forest senior Michael Bingham flew through the finish line at 45.69 - the fastest time in the world this year - to win the section and overall 400m title.
"I'm pretty pleased with what I was able to accomplish this season," said Solomon. "I really haven't done any speed work yet though and have been focusing primarily on the outdoor season. So this was a little bit of a bonus in my mind.
Solomon said that he got a bit of an emotional boost from watching Emanuel's victory in the mile on the big screen video board from the warm-up area.
"It actually did pump me up a little bit," he said. "I saw him win it and thought, `well, he went out there and won, let's see what I can do now.
"It was a little tough having to start out in lane six, running by myself, but I did okay. I really wanted to try and pass those guys (Bingham and Oliver) with about 150 meters to go, but they moved into lane two to keep me out, which is just what happens indoors."
Junior Deanna Young, the UNM women's only representative, capped the meet by tying for 12th in the triple jump (42' 2" - 12.85m). Young, however, was sixth among United States citizens in the event to become the first Lobo woman to earn All-America honors indoors.
The top five finishers in the women's triple jump were all international athletes. The NCAA awards All-America laurels in track and field to the top-eight finishers overall and top-eight American citizens in each individual event.
Young was the first UNM woman to qualify for the NCAA Indoors in the triple jump. She was one of three Mountain West Conference women in the field. San Diego State's Karoline Koehler and Decontee Kaye also earned All-America honors, placing third and eighth, respectively.
Young's season best mark of 43' 1 3/4" recorded two weeks ago in a third place finish behind Kaye and Koehler at the MWC Indoor Championships would have been good for seventh in today's event.
NCAA Championships Notes: Lee Emanuel becomes the first Lobo to win an NCAA track & field title since 1977 (Michael Solomon - 600 yards) and is the seventh to win a men's individual title at either the NCAA Indoor or Outdoor Championship meets (3 indoor/4 outdoor)...Emanuel was the first Lobo to qualify for the NCAA Indoors in the mile.
Emanuel was the second national champion UNM head coach Joe Franklin has coached in his career...Victoria Mitchell of Butler (2005 3,000m steeplechase - outdoors) was the first.
Jarrin Solomon records the highest finish (fifth) ever by a UNM sprinter at the NCAA Indoor meet...he is the first sprinter to earn All-America honors since Charles Dramiga (440 yards) at the 1977 NCAA Indoor Championships.
Deanna Young became the first UNM woman ever to earn All-America honors at the NCAA Indoor Championships...she was sixth among the U.S. citizens in the triple jump (tied for 12th overall)
New Mexico's 14 points are the second-most in men's program history at the NCAA Indoors - just one shy of the 1977 team's 15...the UNM men had scored 11.33 points combined at the NCAA Indoor Championships since 1985 (6 - 1990, 5 - 2005, 0.33 - 2006)
UNM had three individuals earn All-America honors indoors for the first time...the 1984 men's team had two individuals combine for three All-America awards.
UNM has had six indoor/outdoor track All-Americans in head coach Joe Franklin's two years in Albuquerque...five of the six have been graduates of New Mexico high schools...UNM had three athletes earn All-America honors at the 2008 NCAA Outdoor Championships.