Murphy Qualifies For Nationals In Final Home Meet
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  11/11/2006
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Nov. 11, 2006

Results | Timmie Murphy | Matt Henry

Women's 6K Results
Men\'s\ 10K\ Results

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- University of New Mexico fifth-year senior Timmie Murphy couldn't have scripted her final home cross country race any better. Running in front of her friends and family for the last time at the UNM North Golf Course, Murphy secured her first berth to the national meet with a fifth place finish this morning at the NCAA Championships Mountain Regional. The Farmington, N.M. native turned in the best finish by a Lobo woman at the regional meet since 1988, completing the 6,000-meter course in 21 minutes even.

Junior Leslie Luna joined Murphy on the all-Mountain Region team, placing 18th (21:26.5) and finds herself squarely on the bubble for NCAA qualifying. Luna will need both No. 24 Colorado State (fourth - 96 points) and No. 30 Weber State (fifth - 98 points) to earn at-large teams bids out of the region in order to qualify as an individual when the national championship field is released on Monday morning.

No. 12 BYU (third - 94 points) will almost certainly earn the first at-large bid, but the Rams and Wildcats may have done enough on Saturday to impress the NCAA Selection Committee, finishing within four points of the Cougars and 11 points behind second place and 17th-ranked Texas Tech. No. 9 Colorado won the women's title with a low score of 64.

New Mexico finished seventh overall, one spot above its regional ranking entering the meet, and placed four runners in the top-45 of the 119-woman field. The Lobos received a strong performance from Vanessa Ortiz, the Mountain West Conference Freshman of the Year, who finished 40th (22:20.4). Junior Sheyenne Lewis, meanwhile, turned in the finest race of her career, using a late kick to finish 45th (22:35.6) in her first Mountain Regional appearance. Junior Melanie Velarde capped the UNM scoring in 74th place (23:26.3), while freshman Kelly McCabe (80th - 23:44.4) and senior Roxann James (87th - 23:53.6) were the sixth and seventh runners for the Lobos.

Texas Tech sophomore Sally Kipyego dominated the field from start to finish, winning with a time of 19:45.9 - nearly 45 seconds ahead of the runner-up, Colorado sophomore Jenny Barringer (20:30.5).

On the men's side, senior Juan Ortega capped his storybook cross country career with a memorable performance in front of his hometown crowd. Ortega established himself as one of the premier distance men in the area, finishing 20th (31:26.7) to earn all-region honors for the first time in his career. The Albuquerque Rio Grande High School product battled with the top-15 for much of the race, then drifted back before charging into the top-20 once again down the final straightaway. Ortega improved 19 placed on his 2005 regional finish and was 58 spots higher than his first Mountain Regional 10K as a freshman in '03.

Junior Jeremy Johnson, meanwhile, turned in a courageous performance, finishing 33rd (31:57.7) despite being weakened by the flu. Johnson, who was receiving fluids from an IV 24 hours earlier, kept himself within striking distance of the lead pack much of the race before fading over the final 3,000 meters.

Junior Joseph Garcia was the Lobos' No. 3 runner, crossing the line 51st (32:32.4), while fellow junior Chris Bratton had one of his best collegiate races, finishing 66th (33:19.6). Freshman Jason Petty placed 73rd (33:34.7) in the 105-man field to cap the UNM scoring, while fellow rookie Jeremy Newland was 83rd (34:09.2).

The UNM men also improved one spot higher on its regional seed entering the meet, finishing 11th with a score of 243. No. 2 Colorado defeated 14th-ranked BYU 59-67 for the men's team title, while No. 4 UTEP was third with 86 points.

BYU senior Josh Rohatinsky, the Mountain West Conference Champion, used a late push to separate himself from a tight pack and win the individual title with a time of 29:51.6. Northern Arizona sophomore Joseph Lamong (29:55.7) edged Wyoming sophomore Mark Korir (29:56.7) by one second at the line to prevent a 1-2 finish by the MWC runners.