Lobos Visit Air Force For Official 2005 Indoor Season Opener
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  01/21/2005
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Jan. 21, 2005


After last weekend's exhibition meet celebrating the return of indoor track and field to Albuquerque, the University of New Mexico men's and women's track and field teams make their official 2005 indoor debut today in Colorado Springs. New Mexico will be one of 13 teams competing over the next two days in the 15th annual Air Force Invitational at the Cadet Field House. The scored meet gets underway at 1 p.m. (MST) on Friday and resumes on Saturday at 9 a.m.

Mountain West Conference foes Air Force, BYU, Colorado State, and Wyoming headline the list of Division I teams. Colorado, Fresno State, Northern Colorado and Utah State will also be in attendance, as well as Division II schools Adams State, CU-Colorado Springs, Colorado School of Mines and Western State.


New Mexico has enjoyed some stellar performances over the past few years at the Air Force Invite. Last year, the Lobo men and women finished seventh and sixth, respectively, while school records fell in the men's 60-meter hurdles and both the men's and women's distance medley relays. UNM also received a tremendous, but unofficial, performance from junior Matt Gonzales. Gonzales, who was training for the USA national cross country team trials, won the mile as an unattached runner, crossing the line with an altitude adjusted time of 4:04.52, which was just .30 seconds off the school record.

In 2003, the Lobos set five indoor school records and won six events. The men's team finished a strong third in the 12-team field with a score of 90 points, which was just 2.5 behind Air Force and 19 shy of first place Colorado State.


Complete information and results from the 15th annual Air Force Invitational will be available at the official athletic department website of the U.S. Air Force Academy:

Air Force Invitational Results


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- The University of New Mexico track and field team and a large, enthusiastic group of friends gathered at the Albuquerque Convention Center on Jan. 15 to welcome back indoor track competition after an 18-year absence from the Duke City. The collegiate athletes, which included the host Lobos and representatives from Oklahoma State, Adams State and Western State, were joined by over 300 athletes of all ages from the community.

Albuquerque mayor Martin Chavez and city council president Brad Winter were also on hand for the meet's opening ceremonies. Chavez was the official starter for the first running event of the day, a celebrity 4x200-meter relay race between the Albuquerque Fire Department and Albuquerque Police Department. Winter later competed in the men's pole vault, tying for first in the second flight with a height of 11-06.25.

The city of Albuquerque's first indoor track meet since the 1987 Western Athletic Conference Championships was a rousing success as competitors from ages 3 to 82 enjoyed the city's state-of-the-art Mondo track. While meet directors did not have enough time to secure NCAA Division I certification, several Lobos turned in impressive early season results in the exhibition meet.

Senior Amanda Barnes opened the day with a fine performance in the shot put, winning the event with ease with a mark of 47-04.50. Fellow seniors Jaime Hall and Cameron Clarke, meanwhile, swept the 800 meters in the first event on the oval. Hall clocked a time of 2:19.56, while Clarke was just off his personal record with a time of 1:55.62.

Jacquelyne Gallegos, a junior in indoor eligibility, ran a sizzling time of 10:13.68 to take second in the 3,000. Had results been official, her approximate altitude adjusted time would have been a personal best 9:51. In the men's race, fifth-year senior Ben Ortega would have also shattered his PR with his runner-up finish. Ortega clocked a time of 8:31.05, which would have translated to an altitude adjusted time of about 8:12.

"This is the best indoor track I've ever seen," said Ortega after his race. "The banks (of the indoor track) were so perfect, I hardly noticed them. I just felt like I was floating out there and I only wish we could move the conference meet here this year so I could have one more chance to run on this surface."

Perhaps the best performance of the day came in the meet finale, when New Mexico's Derek Mackel, an indoor junior, flew a career-best 17-00.75 to win the men's pole vault. Mackel, who set his official indoor career-best of 16-01.25 last winter, just missed on his final three attempts at 17-06.

"I'm really excited about what happened today," said UNM head coach Matt Henry. "I'm excited about the performances and that so many of our athletes were able to get an early start on the 2005 season. This facility is an outstanding step forward for track and field in the state of New Mexico. I've already had calls from about 15 universities asking if they can come and compete here next year. This was a special day and the future is only going to get better."


Good timing, a proactive city council and an irresistible sale all contributed to the return of indoor track and field to the Albuquerque after nearly a 20-year absence. During the spring of 2004 Albuquerque city leaders learned of a $1 million unused and undamaged indoor track sitting in storage in Canada that could be purchased for a mere $500,000. The state-of-the-art Mondo track had originally been ordered, then later declined, for use in the Los Angeles Staples Center arena.

The track finally found a home inside the Convention Center in downtown Albuquerque and made its debut on Jan. 15, 2005 for the inaugural Albuquerque All-Comers meet. Nearly identical to the track used by the University of Arkansas at the Randal Tyson Track Center, Albuquerque's new indoor facility received rave reviews from athletes, coaches and fans. Like the Arkansas facility, which has been the site of every NCAA Indoor Championship meet since 2000, Albuquerque and University of New Mexico officials believe the city now has an indoor track that will be a destination for some of the nation's premier events.

The new Albuquerque indoor track is a 200-meter, 60-degree banked track that has 60m straightaways running the entire length of the facility. It also includes men's and women's jumping runways and pits, as well as an areas for shot put, pole vault and high jump events. The surface of the track is red and white Mondo.

The Albuquerque All-Comers meet marked the University of New Mexico's first indoor competition at home since hosting the 1987 Western Athletic Conference Championships in Tingley Coliseum at the New Mexico State Fairgrounds. Current UNM assistant coach Scott Steffan, who competed at the '87 WAC Championships as freshman decathlete, said the new indoor track will provide a tremendous boost to the head coach Matt Henry's rejuvenated Lobo track and field program. The U.S. Air Force Academy has hosted every Mountain West Conference Indoor Championship meet since the league formed in 1999, but UNM coaches are hoping for a change of venue as early as next year.

"We've now joined Air Force as the only two programs in the Mountain West that have NCAA sanctioned indoor track facilities," said Steffan. "We're going to host one meet this year, but, with the city's help, we would like to once again make Albuquerque one of the country's top destinations for indoor track competition. We've already put in a bid to host the 2006 conference meet and we think this could be a future site for the NCAA Championships as well, which is great for our recruits to know."

In the mid-60s Albuquerque was one of the nation's elite indoor track and field locations. The 1966 AAU Indoor Nationals (now known as the USA Indoor Track & Field Championships) drew a two-day total of nearly 20,000 fans to Tingley Coliseum and was featured on the March 14 cover of Sports Illustrated. Albuquerque officials were able to lure the meet away from its regular home at Madison Square Garden in New York City that year.


While outdoor competition remains the focal point for fifth-year head coach Matt Henry and his staff, the Lobos will field a solid, exciting squad this winter. The city of Albuquerque's recent purchase of an indoor track created a buzz around indoor competition. Though the track is not yet available for training purposes, New Mexico's athletes got a solid head start on the 2005 campaign, competing in the Jan. 15 home exhibition meet.


The UNM women will feature plenty of fresh faces this season with 25 newcomers, including 22 freshmen, joining 20 returning letterwinners indoors. While the team's overall inexperience may be a factor at times, New Mexico returns its top performers in virtually every event.

Senior Jacquelyne Gallegos is the Lobos' top threat on the track and is one of the league's premier talents in both the mile and 3,000 meters. An all-conference runner in the 1,500 outdoors, Gallegos placed third at the MWC Cross Country Championships and went on to finish a strong 69th at the NCAA Championship meet during the fall.

The Lobos also return the greatest throwers in school history in seniors Amanda Barnes and Jamie Fishencord, as well as the best UNM pole vaulter of all-time in senior Bridgid Isworth. Barnes became the first New Mexico woman to earn all-conference honors in the shot put last winter, finishing third with a school record toss of 49-03.50. Fishencord, meanwhile, surpassed her own school record in the weight throw, placing eighth at the MWC meet with a toss of 53-11.75. Isworth, the 2003 MWC indoor pole vault champion, did not vault last winter, but came on strong during the outdoor season. She sailed 12-07.50 to win the MWC title, then soared 12-10.00 in a fifth place finish at the Midwest Regionals.

Back on the track, junior Kimilia Davis has continued to improve each year and is poised to become one of the league's best sprinters in 2005. Davis led the Lobos in the 60, 200 and 400 indoors last year and was an outdoor finalist in both the 200 and 400. This year, she should have some more help with the addition of freshmen Kristan Matison, Tabatha Shaw and Shakira Williams. Senior Jaime Hall and sophomore Riann Lucy give the Lobos a solid 1-2 punch in the 800, while junior Timmie Murphy leads a large, talented group of young distance runners.

Senior Suzanne Nguyen and sophomore Stefany Setliff return to handle the pentathlon and will also help in several field events. Versatile senior Amber Nolte, meanwhile, will also contribute in the pole vault and hurdles. True freshman Tiyana Peters could give the Lobos an immediate scoring threat in the high jump, while fellow rookie Whitney Johnson could emerge as one of the league's best in the pole vault.


The New Mexico men's team should be a solid, balanced unit this winter with 16 newcomers blending with a strong group of veterans. UNM loses several big guns in MWC heptathlon champion Mark Johnson, sprinter/hurdler Chris Garofola, as well as throwers Jason Barkemeyer and Jordan Parker, but the door is open for the next generation of Lobo stars to make their mark.

All-everything distance runner Matt Gonzales is back for his final year in Cherry and Silver after leading the UNM men's cross country team to a ninth place finish at the 2004 NCAA Cross Country Championships. The two-time track All-American will likely ease into the indoor season, but will be a threat to win both the mile and 3,000 at the conference championships. Fellow senior Ben Ortega, a five-time all-MWC honoree on the track, is one of the league's premier 5,000 and 3,000 runners, while senior Nick Martinez is a scoring threat in the mile and 3K. Senior Cameron Clarke, who is slated to redshirt during the spring, could be one of the Mountain West's top runners in the 800 and mile in his final indoor campaign.

Fresh off his All-America performance at the national cross country meet, freshman Shadrack Kiptoo Biwott leads a fine group of young UNM distance runners. The prep All-American owned the fastest high school two-mile time (8:45.44) in the nation last year has been clocked at 4:02.80 in the mile. He is equally dangerous in the 5K, owning a personal best of 13:57. Sophomores Steven Martinez and Juan Ortega should be factors as well this winter after enjoying a fine cross country campaign.

The sprint events should get some real help with the return of senior Ahmed Raji, who redshirted the entire 2004 season. Raji joined the team late in the 2003 indoor season, but proved to be one of the Mountain West's fastest men outdoors, earning all-conference honors in the 200. Sophomores Chewy White and Randle McCain also return, looking to build off of their strong debut seasons. White ripped off a stunning school record time of 6.91 in the 60-meter dash last year, while McCain led the team in the 400. Redshirt freshman Jeremy Davis will be counted on to share the load, as will junior Brenton Laws, a transfer from Washington. Freshmen Chris Cole, Kurt Henry, George Mullen and Jarrin Solomon will also have an opportunity to make their mark in the sprints.

New Mexico should also be a force in the jumps and heptathlon this winter. Junior Dan Feltman is easily the team's best all-around athlete and should challenge for the heptathlon crown this season after placing fourth in the MWC decathlon competition. Junior Rodney Hocker and true freshman Derek McDonald will join Feltman to give the Lobos a solid multi-event group. Senior Willie Yuen, a five-time indoor and outdoor triple jump finalist is back to lead the team in both horizontal jumps, while indoor junior Derek Mackel appears ready to lead the perennially strong UNM pole vault crew. Junior Zach Bingham, sophomore Robert Caldwell and freshman Zach Graham should also be MWC scoring threats in the vault.


Under the direction of fourth-year head coach Matt Henry and his staff, the 2004 Lobos continued to improve their indoor performances. Last winter the Lobos eclipsed the top marks of 2003 in 19 events. Furthermore, an impressive 17 of the top performances were the best in Henry's tenure at UNM. The following is a breakdown of the improvement the men and women made on their top indoor event marks:

MEN (10 events)

*60m: (6.96 ~ 6.91, -0.05 sec.), 200m: (21.83 ~ 21.54, -0.29), *800m: (1:54.03 ~ 1:53.69, -0.34), *Mile: (4:12.29 ~ 4:04.88, -7.41 sec.), *5,000m: (14:43.65 ~ 14:32.52, -16.13 sec.), *60m Hurdles: (8.22 ~ 8.13, -0.09 sec.), *Distance Medley Relay: (10:11.60 ~ 9:57.38, -14.22 sec.), *Triple Jump: (45-05.25 ~ 46-05.25, +1 ft.), *Shot Put: (51-00.75 ~ 56-09.25, +5 ft., 8.50 in.), *Weight Throw: (49-02.50 ~ 52-04.00, +3 ft., 1.50 in.).

WOMEN (9 events)

*400m: (58.58 ~ 57.16, -1.42 sec.), *800m: (2:21.07 ~ 2:15.65, -5.42 sec.), *Mile: (5:41.42 ~ 4:58.76, -42.66 sec.), *3,000m: (10:45.58 ~ 9:57.47, -48.11 sec.), *5,000m: (no competitors ~ 17:47.01), 4x400m Relay: (3:58.79 ~ 3:56.23, -2.56 sec.), *Distance Medley Relay: (13:02.25 ~ 12:07.34, -54.91 sec.), *Shot Put: (47-00.25 ~ 49-03.50, +2 ft., 3.25 in.), *Weight Throw: (49-09.25 ~ 53-011.75, +4ft., 2.50 in.).

* indicates top time/result under fourth year head coach Matt Henry