May 29, 2009
NORMAN, Okla. - Anthony Fairbanks wasn't going to let his career end with another heartbreaking performance. The University of New Mexico senior erased all memories of some disappointing big meet results with a sensational performance in the javelin this afternoon at the NCAA Midwest Regional Track and Field Championships. Fairbanks recorded the two longest throws of the day, breaking the UNM and Mountain West Conference records with a winning mark of 225' 9" (68.81m) to secure his first trip to the NCAA Championship meet.
Fairbanks' early victory and a strong effort by the UNM distance crew in the final event of the day, the 5,000 meters, helped the New Mexico men finish day one in third place in the team standings. The Lobos' 20 points are already a program record and just four points out of first.
The story of the day, however, was Fairbanks. The Albuquerque Highland product, who entered the meet as the No. 4 seed, took the lead for good with a 224-foot (68.28m) throw on his third attempt and surpassed the 225-foot mark for the first time in his career on his sixth and final toss. Wichita State sophomore Brett Trudo was second with a mark of 223' 7" (68.15m), while UTEP All-American Alex VanderMerwe was third (219' 7" - 66.93m), falling to Fairbanks for the second time in the past month.
Fairbanks broke Donnie Lujan's 1991 school record by five inches and reclaimed his MWC record from BYU's Blaine Baker, who knocked him off with a career-best throw of 225' 7" two weeks ago at the MWC Championship meet. He became the fourth Lobo and third UNM man to win a Midwest Regional title since the regional format began in 2003. All four UNM champions hail from the state of New Mexico, including pole vaulter Derek Mackel (Albuquerque Sandia) who was the last men's winner in 2006.
Fairbanks earned all-region honors for a school record third time in his career, but had never thrown farther than 207 feet at the Midwest Championships until today. Last year, he entered the regional meet as the No. 4 seed and was a near lock for an NCAA bid until a disastrous 21st place finish (190' 3"). He had also suffered consecutive upset losses at the MWC Championships in 2008 and '09.
Today, however, it was all erased as he stood alone as the best thrower in the modern history of the javelin at UNM. Fairbanks became the first New Mexico javelin thrower to advance to the national meet since 2005 and sixth in school history since Buster Quist became the Lobos' first All-American in the event in 1958.
Fairbanks' performance set the early tone on day one and the men's distance crew added the exclamation point with an outstanding performance in the 5K.
Junior Jacob Kirwa continued his remarkable late season surge in his first Division I track campaign, securing an automatic bid to the NCAA Championships with a second place finish. Kirwa, who entered the meet as the No. 13 seed after winning the MWC title two weeks ago, crossed the line in a career-best 14:02.51 - just 0.26 seconds behind Minnesota's Hassan Mead.
The Eldoret, Kenya product joined former All-American Jeremy Johnson (2007) as the Lobos' second all-region honoree in the event and recorded the ninth-fastest time in school history.
Junior teammate Chris Barnicle gave New Mexico a pair of all-region honorees in the same event for the first time ever with a seventh place finish (14:07.06). Barnicle, who is a strong contender for an at-large bid in the 10,000 meters, earned a spot on the all-region team for the second time in his career. The Arkansas transfer was sixth in the event at the Mideast Championships as a redshirt freshman in 2007.
Fellow junior Rory Fraser finished ninth (14:12.04) to all but wrap up his at-large NCAA berth. Fraser entered the meet ranked 12th nationally in the event with a season-best time of 13:39.85. He was 11th in the 5K at the 2009 NCAA Indoor Championships.
Senior Mat Asthon, meanwhile, was 13th (14:27.31), but should see his name announced with the NCAA 10,000 field is announced on Monday.
New Mexico and Oklahoma State (3-8-14-20) were the only schools with four runners in the 5K.
Johnson, who was making her return to the Midwest Regional meet after a four-year absence, cleared 12' 10" (3.91m) on her third attempt to become the Lobos' second all-region honoree in the event. The Mission Viejo, Calif. product finished her memorable UNM career as the school's outdoor record holder in the pole vault.
Archer crossed the line eight spots above her seed with a career-best time of 16:40.31 - 12 seconds shy of fifth place and an automatic bid to the NCAA meet. The Cheshire, England product will be squarely on the bubble for a bid in the 10K when the NCAA selections are announced.
Fellow junior Michelle Corrigan was 17th in the 5K (17:19.92), but at No. 23 in the 10,000 should be in line for an at-large bid to the national meet.
Top-seeded Emanuel clocked the fastest preliminary time of the day, cruising across the line in 3:44.29. Junior teammate David Bishop finished third in his heat (3:51.97) to join Emanuel in Saturday's 12-man finals.
Later, Solomon won his 400 heat with a sizzling time of 45.96, despite shutting off his throttle before crossing the finish line. The Albuquerque La Cueva product ran under 46 seconds for the second time in as many races and will have his father Michael's 33-year-old school record of 45.77 targeted when steps into the blocks tomorrow in his second straight Midwest regional finals appearance.
Junior Kim Perkins also advanced to the finals in the 400 hurdles in her regional debut. Perkins clocked a time of 1:00.04, edging SMU's Gayla Cloud by five-hundredths of a second for the eight and final spot in the event finals.
The day wasn't as kind to senior Jermaine McQueen who suffered an apparent hamstring injury during the prelims of the 100 meters, ending his brief, but spectacular Lobo career. After leading the Lobo 4x100 relay team to an 11th place finish (40.34) earlier, McQueen pulled up in the 100 and limped across the line, then scratched out of the 200 prelims.