Feb. 22, 2012
By Mike Mulcahy
This is where it gets real. After months of practicing, weeks of competing and days of waiting, this is the meet where it all matters.
Certainly, the first six weeks of competition were replete with strong marks and great performances by a number of athletes.
But all of that is the past.
Now, the University of New Mexico track and field team faces a new but nonetheless familiar challenge: the Mountain West Indoor Track & Field Championships.
Hosting the conference championships for the third consecutive year and the fifth time in the last seven years, the Lobos have their eyes set on not only winning a handful of events, but winning the entire affair. Now, after all the practicing, competing and waiting, the Lobos can start to prowl the Albuquerque Convention Center this Thursday through Saturday for victory.
And while Head Coach Joe Franklin's Lobos has never claimed the top spot at the Mountain West indoor championships, this might just be the year. Sans recently departed Brigham Young University--a squad that had both their men and women win the MW indoor meet for the past three years--New Mexico has a golden opportunity to climb to the peak and be crowned victor.
Headlined by a star-studded and talented cast, this incredibly balanced team looks to have the early lead for a podium finish.
Leading the charge is the stalwart distance crews. On the men's side, New Mexico is paced by Ross Millington and his NCAA Automatic Qualifying mark in the 3,000-meter run, but also has the solid supporting cast of Sam Evans, Sean Stam and Pierre Malherbe behind him.
For the women distance runners, transfer Josephine Moultrie has been hot this season, breaking three UNM records in the span of two weeks. Also dangerous are Imogen Ainsworth, Sarah Waldron, Lacey Oeding, Natalie Gray, Janna Mitsos and Ashlee Smalley, a group capable of contributing substantial points for the Lobos.
The pole vault has also been a forte for both the men and the women. UNM women's indoor record holder Amber Menke is joined by Margo Tucker and Julia Cook as serious threats for the women, and Logan Pflibsen and Robert Warensjo are consistent top-ten finishers for the men.
Another pair of strong suits for the men is the sprints and hurdles. Sensational freshman Beejay Lee has already broken the school record in the 60m dash, and can still improve and earn points for the Lobos. Junior De'Vron Walker is the school record holder in the 60m hurdles, and looks primed to be a contributing factor for New Mexico.
Heptathletes Richard York and Sam Potter have also had success, both finishing top-ten in the heptathlon in January at the Air Force Combined Events. York won the event at last year's MWC Indoor Championships.
Jumps have also shown considerable talent, and are led by Kendall Spencer and Floyd Ross for the men and Yeshemabet Turner and Aasha Marler for the women. Spencer and Ross both rank top-30 nationally in the long jump and triple jump, respectively. Turner and Marler, both freshmen, have produced solid results from both long and triple jump, and look to welcome back All-Mountain West performer Precious Selmon into the fold.
Also strong performers for the Lobos in early 2012 are the men's and women's mid-distance team. The men are headlined by Derek Montoya, Gabe Aragon and JP Cordova and the women are led by Shirley Pitts and Tawsha Brazley.
The meet kicks off Thursday, Feb. 23, with the men's heptathlon at 11 a.m. That is followed up Friday with the conclusion of the men's heptathlon at 11 a.m. and the men's weight throw at 1 p.m. The meet's final day, Saturday, starts off with the women's shot put at 9:45 a.m., and finishes at 1:40 p.m. with the men's 4x400 meter relay.