Oct. 24, 2012
Mountain West Cross Country Championships - Las Vegas, Nev.
When/Where: Friday, Silver Bowl Park, Las Vegas, Nev.
Women: 11 a.m. MT -- six kilometers
Men: 11:40 a.m. MT -- eight kilometers
Results: GoLobos.com, TheMWC.com.
To put the Lobos' dominance over the Mountain West in perspective, the last time a New Mexico team did not win a conference championship, the current U.S. president hadn't been elected, the national average cost of gas was under three dollars and over half of the current roster was still in high school.
This weekend, however, no one will be thinking about that.
The University of New Mexico's nationally ranked cross country teams are heading to the Mountain West Cross Country Championships in Las Vegas, Nev. this weekend as they look to defend their runs of consecutive titles. The No. 17 women will compete Friday at 11 a.m. MT, and the No. 12 men at 11:40 a.m. MT.
"The goal of every university team [is] to win their conference championships," said New Mexico head coach Joe Franklin. "Just like it is for men's and women's soccer, women's volleyball and football. Those are the goals and that's the first step in the championship season."
For the Lobos, accomplishing that goal has become a characteristic of the program. The women have won the last four Mountain West women's team titles dating back to 2008, while the men have claimed three-straight men's conference crowns since 2009.
But New Mexico will not take anything for granted Friday.
"You just want people to compete and be competitive," Franklin said. "That's first and foremost. And make sure you take it really seriously."
The Lobos will have to take it seriously at Silver Bowl Park in Las Vegas, Nev. While no other MW institutions have teams ranked nationally, New Mexico will have its hands full this weekend as the rest of the conference guns for the Lobos and their multiple championships.
"I think it's going to be a good meet on the men's side with Air Force, Boise [State] and UNM and on the women's side with Colorado State and UNM," Franklin said. "I've never run a cross country meet in Las Vegas in my 18 years of coaching. It should be an interesting experience."
For the women, senior Josephine Moultrie is looking to guide the women in the 6-kilometer run and back to the top of the podium.
The women's best runner in 2012, Moultrie has led New Mexico at every meet at which she has run, including a ninth-place individual finish at the massively competitive Wisconsin adidas Invitational two weeks ago. But for Moultrie, this weekend is about improvement from 2011.
"I didn't run very well last year -- 16th or 17th," Moultrie said, "and I think this year, having run pretty well so far, I think I want to have a really good performance and have a shot at leading from the front."
Moultrie, who placed 16th at last year's conference meet, will be joined by a dauntless crew of runners that includes veterans Lacey Oeding, Imogen Ainsworth, Kirsten Follett and Shawna Winnegar and newcomers Charlotte Arter, Joanne Harvey and Chloe Anderson.
"Running as a team will be very important and hopefully get as many of the top places as possible to get a good team score," Moultrie said.
The Lobos come in owning four of the top ten (and seven of the top 20) 6K times in the conference, credentials that expect to lean heavily in New Mexico's favor come race time.Said Franklin: "Our women have been a surprise. We have had good front runners in the past and now we have women who have developed into scorers through hard work and believing they are doing the right things to be competitive."
On the men's side, the Lobos are in a similar situation. Led by letterwinner Sean Stam and transfers Luke Caldwell, Adam Bitchell and Patrick Zacharias, the men are a very deep and balanced squad, with high expectations for Friday after scoring a sixth-place finish at Wisconsin.
"I'm expecting for us to go out and win it," Stam said. "I don't know necessarily what our positions will be, but our top five should be in the top ten."
The men are also counting on strong performances in their 8K out of Sam Evans and freshmen Donovan Torres and Elmar Engholm. Both Evans and Engholm have scored for the Lobos in the last month, while Torres has been a consistent sixth runner for the men.
"We have depth that we've never had before where our one through seven are really close," Stam said. "And that's what you need to have a good cross country team."
Like the women, the men have the edge on paper, as they hold five of the top fifteen 8K times in the MW this year, including Stam's conference-leading mark.
However, the Lobos' performance in Las Vegas won't make or break New Mexico's 2012 campaign.
"The season's not over after the conference championships," Franklin said. "You still have the NCAA Regional and the NCAA national championship. I think the goal is to finish and make sure you give it your all your last thousand meters. That's what determines a successful season: can you look yourself in the mirror and say you did everything you can?"
The Lobos have before, and after Friday, they hope to do so again.