Jan. 15, 2005
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 today to welcome back indoor track competition after an 18-year absence from the Duke City. The collegiate athletes, which included the 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 1988 Western Athletic Conference Championships was a rousing success as competitors from ages 3-82 enjoyed the city's $500,000 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."
Henry and his Lobos officially open the 2005 indoor season next Friday and Saturday, Jan. 21-22, at the Air Force Invitational. Air Force will also host the 2005 Mountain West Conference Indoor Championship meet for the sixth straight year at Cadet Field.
**Check back on Wednesday for a complete photo gallery of the inaugural Albuquerque All-Comers Indoor Track and Field Meet!