Jan. 19, 2012
New Mexico Lobos Indoor Track & Field - 2012 Season PreviewFriday-Saturday: Lobos Cherry & Silver Invitational - Albuquerque Convention Center
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
In a way, track is always a priming the pump deal. You want to perform well at the start. However, you also want everything flowing at 100 percent toward the end of the season when the big meets like the Mountain West Championships and the NCAA Indoor Championships hit.
For Lobo Coach Joe Franklin, that priming the pump strategy takes on a slightly different twist in the 2012 track & field indoor season.
Oh, Franklin wants his Lobos to improve, stay healthy peak at the right time and - with Brigham Young gone -- maybe grab the 2012 MW title.
But he also is priming a pump on Feb. 10 when a handful of the top track & field teams in the nation converge on the Albuquerque Convention Center for a day of running and jumping.
"This meet is probably the highlight of the collegiate indoor season prior to the national championships," said Franklin. "It's going to be a phenomenal meet. Very rarely do these teams show up in the same place and here they are in Albuquerque.
"This meet is going to be as good as you can find before the NCAA finals."
The meet includes Oregon, Texas, Florida, Ohio State, Stanford, Cal-Berkeley, UCLA, Arizona State, Utah State, Indiana State and Texas Tech. "We turned down a lot of teams who wanted to be here, but we just couldn't fit them in."
Franklin has a trio of reasons for bringing in all these big-name teams:
1. He wants his Lobos to experience competition at a high level.
2. He wants the New Mexico track community to experience this top-shelf talent.
3. He is priming the pump for UNM's bid for the 2014 NCAA Indoor Championships.
"We want the 2014 national championships in Albuquerque and these people are all players in the track and field community," said Franklin. "We have a chance to impress them with what we feel in the best indoor facility in the country. We are showcasing what we have to offer to these teams.
"We want Albuquerque and the state of New Mexico to be on live television for two hours and be an NCAA Championship city. It's rare and special for any city to be an NCAA Championship site."
The Lobos have hosted national championships in men and women's golf, men's basketball, volleyball and even gymnastics. The last time was in 2008 at the UNM Championship Course (women's golf).
The Lobos 2014 bid may or may not be the winning bid, but the Feb. 10 meet is a reality - and a winner. The Lobos also are eyeing the 2012 Mountain West title which opens up to a lot of MW teams now that BYU is out of the league race.
"The dynamics of the conference have changed with BYU gone," said Franklin. "We are in a spot to be one of several teams which could win the title.
"You always want to win your conference title. Before, nobody really had a shot but BYU. We were like Little League hitters going to bat against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Now a lot of teams have a shot and we're one of them"
BYU won its ninth straight men's indoor title in 2011, while the Cougar women won their tenth in 12 years. Air Force was second followed by New Mexico and TCU on the men's side. The TCU women were second to BYU followed by New Mexico.
That trio of teams will be mix for the 2012 crown, but it might not just be a three-horse race.
Franklin returns All-MW Indoor performers in Sam Evans (mile), Django Lovett (high jump), Ross Millington (3,000), Lamaar Thomas (60), De'Vron Walker (60), Richard York (heptathlon), Precious Selmon (60), Ruth Senior (3,000) and Sarah Waldron(3,000). Selmon, Senior and York were league champions with senior nipping Waldron for the MW title.
"We have some quality athletes, who will compete, but do we have enough," said Franklin. "And with BYU gone, there will be a lot of junk points (lower places) available to be picked up in a lot of events."
The Lobos had a program-best combined finish in 2011. The Mountain West championships are set for Feb. 23-25 at the Albuquerque Convention Center.
"The track and field community recognizes the quality of the meets that will be here in their backyard this season," said Franklin. "But we still want our crowds to grow. Some of the best college athletes in the nation are going to be competing right down the street."
Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former sports columnist and Associate Sports Editor with The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.