Stevens: Lobos Cross Country At NCAA Mountain Region
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  11/10/2011
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Nov. 10, 2011

New Mexico Cross Country Regional Notes Get Acrobat


Where: Provo, Utah - East Bay Golf Course
Saturday: Saturday; men's 10-kilometer, 11 a.m.; women's 6-kilometer, 12:15 p.m.
The Competition: Brigham Young, Colorado State, Idaho State, Montana State, New Mexico State, Northern Arizona, Southern Utah, Texas Tech, Air Force, Texas-El Paso, Colorado, Montana, Nevada, Utah, Utah State, Utah Valley, Weber State, Wyoming.
NCAA Finals: Nov. 21 -- Terre Haute, Ind.

By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

For want of a nail, a kingdom was once lost. Or so the proverb goes. But will a Lobo wanting a bean cost the New Mexico women the NCAA Cross Country Mountain Regional crown?

Maybe. Or maybe not. The Lobos might have lost Sarah Waldron to thumb surgery after she cut a tendon opening a can of beans last week -- or maybe they didn`t lose her.

"She`s a tough woman," said Lobo coach Joe Franklin, holding up a phone photo of Waldron sitting up in a hospital bed. "She cut it on Saturday and ran Sunday and Monday."

Waldron had the surgery on Tuesday to repair the slashed tendon. She might run on Saturday in Provo, Utah. She might not. But Franklin said Waldron is on the travel squad with Josephine Moultrie as the alternate.

The Lobos' depth, a strength in 2011, might be called upon again. The Lobos might be better with Waldron, a First Team All-MWC runner, on the course, but they are still very good without her.

A team can run seven athletes at the regional level with a team's score coming from the top five runners. The top two teams on the men and women's side will advance to the NCAA finals to be held Nov. 21 in Terre Haute, Ind.

The Lobo women and the Lobo men swept the Mountain Region titles in 2010 following sweeps of the Mountain West titles. The two Lobo teams won the 2011 MW titles, but Franklin says his Lobos will not bring out the broom in Provo.

"It's not going to happen," said the Lobo coach. "I don't think we can catch BYU or Colorado on the men`s side. They are loaded."

The Lobos took a loss on their men`s side, too, as Nicholas Kipruto is out for the season with a stress fracture. "The guy is snake bit," said Franklin.

The UNM women are led at regionals by Ruth Senior, the Mountain West champion and MW Women's Cross Country Athlete of The Year. The men are paced by Ross Millington, who grabbed the same two honors on the men's side.

Senior will be joined by Natalie Gray, Waldron, Kirsty Milner, Imogen Ainsworth, Kirsten Follett, Shawna Winnegar and Moultrie. Millington's running mates are Sean Stam, Allen Pittman, Pierre Malherbe, Patrick Ortiz, Mike Asay and Vincent Montoya.

The Lobo women should be dueling Colorado for the 2011 Mountain crown with Brigham Young and Colorado State in the hunt. Franklin says Brigham Young and Colorado should battle for the men's side with Lobos and Northern Arizona Lumberjacks giving chase.

"If the women finish top four, they go to nationals," said Franklin. "The men need to finish top four, too, and then they might need some help."

The top two teams in the nine NCAA regional meets advance to the NCAA nationals. After that, the NCAA will pluck out at-large teams based on times.

"The nice thing about our sport is it's an objective sport and there is not any subjectivity in the selections for the national championships," said Franklin. "We know exactly what the men have to do (in Provo) and that's place fourth or better.

"On the women's side, it's us and BYU and Colorado. I like our odds on the women's side."

Losing Kipruto on the men's side hurt, but Millington has emerged as a special Lobo.

"Ross has been gaining confidence all year," said Franklin. "He has taken an incredible leadership role. He is on the verge of being one of the best who has ever walked through these (UNM) doors."

The thing about regional runs is that while it's nice to win, winning isn't always the main objective. You want to run well enough to qualify, but you don't want to leave too much on the course. The run at Terre Haute is the run that counts.

But you have to run well enough at regionals to advance to the NCAA finals. It can get complicated. The Lobo women probably will advance to nationals without busting a gut in Provo. The Lobo men might need to bust a gut in order to advance.

Franklin also wants to keep his Lobos healthy and injury free.

"The region is a means of reaching the finals," said Franklin. "This is the first round, the preliminaries. It's nice to do well at regionals, but the goal is to advance to the finals. In the finals, you want the heroics."

The Lobos grabbed the automatic bids in 2010 and pulled in at-large bids in 2009. In the 2009 NCAA Championships, the Lobo teams put together the best combined NCAA finish (No. 4) in UNM history.