Lobos Look To Make Statement Against Nation's Best
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  10/11/2006
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

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Oct. 11, 2006


The University of New Mexico men's and women's cross country teams will have a chance to see how they measure up with some of the premier teams in the country on Saturday when head coach Matt Henry and a travel squad of 14 runners travel to Terre Haute, Ind. for the Indiana State Pre-Nationals Meet. A record 192 teams and over 2,000 athletes will be competing in six races on the LaVern Gibson Course at the Wabash Valley Family Sports Center - site of the 2006 NCAA Championship meet.

The women's 6,000-meter races get underway at 9 a.m. (MST), followed by the men's 8K competitions at 10:10. The NCAA Cross Country Championships Sub-Committee will announce the field for the men's and women's seeded races on Friday morning. The Pre-Nationals will be New Mexico's final meet before travelling to Salt Lake City, Utah for the Mountain West Conference Championships on Oct. 28.


Sr. Timmie Murphy (1st team all-MWC, all-Mountain Region...career-best 6K time of 20:40 (7th) at Stanford)
Jr. Leslie Luna (1st team all-MWC, all-Mountain Region...career-best 6K time of 21:38 (20th) at Stanford)
Fr. Vanessa Ortiz (`05 N.M. 5A XC champion and two-time prep Athlete of the Year...11th in home/collegiate debut)
Jr. Melanie Velarde (Scored in 3 of 7 career races...career-best 18th place finish in season-opener)
Jr. Sheyenne Lewis (Scored in 4 of 7 career races...20th in season-opener...made career debut at `04 Pre-Nationals)
Sr. Roxann James (Team top-7 all 7 career races...28th in season-opener...'04 JC All-American at Central Arizona)
Fr. Kelly McCabe (`05 N.M. 5A XC runner-up...competing in first collegiate 6K this weekend)

Jr. Jeremy Johnson (Running XC at UNM for first time since `02...spent 1 1/2 years at Arizona...3rd at Stanford)
Sr. Juan Ortega (Scored 11 times in 16 career races...career-best 4th place finish in season-opener)
Jr. Joseph Garcia (Scored 8 times in 10 career races...20th in season-opener)
Fr. Jason Petty (All-state (4A) XC runner at ABQ St. Pius X HS...scored in 2 of 3 races this fall)
Fr. Alex Willis (All-state XC runner at Leadville (Colo.) HS...'06 Nordic Skiing Jr. Olympics qualifier...3 collegiate races)
Fr. Jeremy Newland (All-state (4A) XC runner at Aztec (N.M.) HS...son of former UNM runner Jef Newland...2 collegiate races)
Fr. Nick Argüelles (Two-time all-state (5A) XC runner at ABQ Highland HS...competing in first collegiate 8K this weekend)


Complete information and results from the 2006 Pre-Nationals Meet can be found on the official website of the host Indiana State Sycamore cross country program.

LOBOS' LAST TRIP TO INDIANA: A Performance For The Ages

New Mexico is making its first trip to Terre Haute since a memorable performance on Nov. 22, 2004 at the NCAA Championship meet.

Senior Matt Gonzales (2nd) and freshman Shadrack Kiptoo-Biwott (14th) earned All-America honors to lead a historic ninth place finish by the UNM men. Gonzales recorded the best ever finish by a Lobo at the NCAA Championship meet, crossing the line just 3.2 seconds behind the winner, Wisconsin's Simon Bairu.

However, it took a remarkable late surge by fifth-year walk-on Sean Flaherty to propel the Lobos into the top-10 for the first time in program history. After laboring near the back of the 255-man pack for half the race, Flaherty passed roughly 80 runners over the final 5,000 meters to finish 175th. His effort helped UNM, which entered the meet ranked 19th in the country, edge No. 9 Cal-Poly by three points.

New Mexico knocked off nine higher ranked teams that day, including the ninth-ranked Mustangs, No. 5 Notre Dame and No. 6 Georgetown.


Junior Jeremy Johnson continued his early season success, placing third at the 33rd annual Stanford Invitational to lead the University of New Mexico men to a sixth place finish (181 points) in the 19-team field. Johnson completed the 8,000-meter course at the Stanford Golf Course in a career-best 23:40, which was one of the fastest 8K times in UNM history and just nine seconds behind the winner, Stanford All-American Neftalem Araia.

The former Albuquerque Manzano High School standout defeated several notable runners including Cardinal All-American Jonathan Pierce (fifth), Big West Conference champion Chris Ashley (eighth) and two-time all-Big West honoree Mike Chavez (fourth), both of UC-Santa Barbara. Johnson sliced 31 seconds off his previous best in the 8K, which he ran as a true freshman at New Mexico back in 2002.

An all-Mountain West Conference runner on the track last winter, Johnson spent a year and a half at Arizona, before returning to UNM in 2005. He sat out last fall due to NCAA transfer regulations.

The UNM women also placed sixth (164 points), led by senior Timmie Murphy's seventh place finish. Murphy completed the 6K course in a career-best 20:40, 26 seconds faster than her previous best, which she recorded last year in a third place finish at the MWC Championship meet. The Farmington, N.M. native edged Stanford All-American Lindsay Flacks by one second and was 37 seconds behind the winner, the Cardinal's six-time All-America honoree Arianna Lambie.

Junior Leslie Luna turned in a strong race of her own, placing 20th - 44 spots higher than she finished last year at Stanford - with a time of 21:38. Freshman Vanessa Ortiz, meanwhile, continued her development with a 35th place finish (22:08). Juniors Melanie Velarde and Sheyenne Lewis placed 49th (22:32) and 64th (22:57), respectively, to cap the UNM scoring. Velarde was 119th at Stanford last year, while Lewis was 159th.

Senior Roxann James (99th - 23:56) and rookie Rachelle Billlie (108th - 24:39) rounded out the Lobos' finishers.

Back in the men's race, senior Juan Ortega clocked a career-best 8K time of 24:21 en route to a finish of 23rd - 46 spots higher than the previous year at Stanford. Junior Joseph Garcia placed a solid 41st with a time of 24:53 - three seconds off his personal best.

Freshman Jason Petty was fourth on the team (90th - 25:40) and junior Chris Bratton was the Lobos' fifth and final scoring runner (101st - 25:50). Rookies Alex Willis (126th - 26:17) and Brian Vallie (133rd - 26:24) completed the New Mexico top-7.


Senior All-American Matt Gonzales led the University of New Mexico men's cross country team to an impressive 10th place showing at the 2004 Pre-Nationals meet at the LaVern Gibson Championship course. Gonzales won the 8,000-meter race with a career-best time of 23:47.2 to help the Lobos down six of the 12 nationally ranked teams in the Blue race.

On the women's side, fellow senior Jacquelyne Gallegos turned in the finest race of her career, finishing 15th out of 246 runners with a personal record 6K time of 21:00.

Racing for the first time since the season-opener, Gonzales showed no signs of rust as he bested 255 runners in the elite field for his first victory in three years. The Santa Fe native's win was a tight one as Colorado's Brent Vaughn finished less than a second behind with a time of 23:48.1. Vaughn led the sixth-ranked Buffaloes to an impressive victory with a score of 63 points.

Gonzales' teammates did a fine job keeping pace as the UNM top five finished with pack spread of 1:38. Freshman Shadrack Kiptoo-Biwott placed 51st with a time of 24:48.2 and senior Ben Ortega finished 16 seconds later in 79th place. Ortega was just eight seconds ahead of fellow senior Sean Flaherty (96th - 25:12.5) and junior Cameron Clarke capped the scoring for the Lobos, placing 117th with a time of 25:25.7.

New Mexico scored 344 points as it bested 26 teams, including No. 22 William & Mary, No. 23 Miami (Ohio), No. 26 Georgia, No. 27 Montana, No. 28 Washington and No. 29 Central Michigan.

Gallegos, meanwhile, shined on the national stage in her best race since 2001. Her teammates also ran hard as freshman Lindsay Barr (184th - 23:05.7) and sophomore Riann Lucy (213th - 23:36.0) both recorded career-best 6K times. Junior Janice Tosa (192nd) was also solid, finishing with a time of 23:12.3. True freshman Sheyenne Lewis, meanwhile, had a strong varsity debut for the Lobos, clocking a time of 23:42.1 (219th).

Senior Vanessa Funston (231st - 23:56) and freshman Stasia Ploskonka (243rd - 24:39.3) rounded out the UNM top seven as the Lobos finished 34th with a score of 823. No. 4 Colorado held off sixth-ranked Michigan, 94-109, for the team title.


New Mexico's speed was on display two weeks ago at the Stanford Invitational. Junior Jeremy Johnson and senior Timmie Murphy recorded the fastest times in head coach Matt Henry's seven-year tenure in the 8K and 6K, respectively.

Johnson finished in 23:40, 11 seconds under Cameron Clarke's Henry-Era record (also recorded at Stanford in 2002), and the fastest recorded time for an 8,000-meter course in program history. Murphy, meanwhile, crossed the line in 20:40, a full 20 seconds faster than Jacquelyne Gallegos' previous Henry-Era record at the 2004 Pre-Nationals Meet in Terre Haute, Ind. Both Johnson's and Murphy's times are the second-fastest in the Mountain West Conference this year.

Several other Lobos turned in career-best times as well. Junior Melanie Velarde sliced 1:32 off her 6K personal record with a time of 22:32 and junior Sheyenne Lewis' time of 22:57 was 45 seconds under her old PR. On the men's side, senior Juan Ortega was 15 seconds under his previous best, finishing in 24:21.


The 2006 season has already provided the opportunity for a large group of freshman runners to compete with the Lobos' top-7. Five men and three women have been on the Lobos' travel squad (Stanford and Pre-Nationals) this fall, including six rookies that are making the trip to Terre Haute this weekend. Rachelle Billie (Stanford), Kelly McCabe (Pre-Nationals), Vanessa Ortiz (Stanford, Pre-Nationals) have travelled for the women, while Nick Argüelles (Pre-Nationals), Jeremy Newland (Pre-Nationals), Jason Petty (Stanford, Pre-Nationals), Brian Vallie (Stanford) and Alex Willis (Stanford, Pre-Nationals) have been part of the men's starting seven.

The eight freshmen on the travel squad are the most in the program since nine rookies, including seven on the women's side, saw significant action in 2001. Last year, a veteran New Mexico squad had just two freshmen (Seny Archuleta, Ezra Esquibel) crack the travel squad.


Junior Jeremy Johnson was named Mountain West Conference Men's Cross Country Athlete of the Week on Sept. 12, becoming the seventh Lobo under seventh-year head coach Matt Henry to win the men's award.

Johnson, an Albuquerque native, turned in a career-best third place finish at the Lobo Invitational to help the UNM men finish third in the 13-team field. He crossed the finish line in 24:59 (8K), just 12 seconds behind the winner, UTEP All-American Stephen Samoei. It was the highest finish by a Lobo men's runner since Matt Gonzales placed second at the 2004 NCAA Championship meet.

Johnson was competing in his first hometown cross country meet since the 2002 season. The former Manzano High School standout was one of the Lobos' top runners as a true freshman in '02 before transferring to Arizona for two years. Johnson returned to UNM in 2005, but had to sit out last fall due to NCAA transfer regulations.