Sept. 5, 2008
Lobo Cross Country
What: Lobos Invitational
When: Saturday, 9:45 a.m. college; 8:45 a.m. high school; 8 a.m. open fun run
Where: UNM North Golf Course, Yale Blvd. at Tucker Rd.
Lobos to watch
Women: Vanessa Ortiz, Carolyn Boosey, Nicky Archer, Leslie Luna, Stasia Ploskonka, Laura Lavezo, Lacey Oeding.
Men: Jacob Kirwa, Rory Fraser, Lee Emanuel, Brian Vallie, Alex Willis, David Bishop, Jason Petty.
By Richard Stevens
Lobos cross country coach Joe Franklin knows that a lot of kids "like to go away to college."
That's fine for one-half of Franklin's recruiting chores. He wants kids from faraway places to consider running high altitude at the University of New Mexico. And he has 'em. His roster includes runners from Russia, England, Kenya, Montana, Indiana, Oregon and Florida.
But Franklin has a different message for the top runners in New Mexico: stay home.
Why? Because New Mexico is considered one of the top geographical spots in the world for long distance runners. UNM is not a place you run from. It's a place you run to, and for.
Heck, do you think all those world-class runners are hauling their buns around the foothills of Albuquerque because they like the green chile stew?
"This is one of the top places in the world to train," said Franklin, in his second season as the Lobos head track and cross country coach. "You couple that with the academic opportunities at UNM and this is an unbelievable mix for a runner.
"The runners on the outside (of New Mexico) already know what's here. One key for us now (in recruiting) is to get more of the top runners from New Mexico to realize what they have here. We want to keep all the great New Mexico runners and merge that with what we can bring in from other places."
The other places have been good to Franklin. He has done a nice job bringing in talent from across the U.S. and across the Atlantic Ocean. The diversity of his roster makes for lots of fun in practice, too.
"There are a lot of little things we laugh about because we have so many different backgrounds," said Franklin. "There are different words that people use, different idiosyncrasies. I still have kids trying to figure out the red-or-green (chile) question. And I've learned a 'jumper' is a sweat shirt."
Franklin learned about the chile thing first hand. During one of his first weeks in Albuquerque, Franklin went to a local burger joint and they asked him, "Red or green?"
"I had no idea what they were asking," he said. "I just answered, 'Green.' I found out what they were talking about pretty fast."
Franklin is hoping his Lobos will be pretty fast Saturday at the UNM North Golf Course when UNM host the ninth Lobo Invitational. It's the lone home meet of the 2008 season. The Lobos will host a regional field that includes national power UTEP, New Mexico State, New Mexico Highlands, Western New Mexico and Dine college.
"They (Lobos) realize they can run with anybody in the country," said Franklin. "That's important (to our recruiting). Once we have teams that compete at the national level - and we are on the verge of that - and once we have kids here running very fast, then more runners start thinking of New Mexico as a viable option. And that includes New Mexico kids.
"I want kids who want to come here to train and be great. Cross country is too hard to be mediocre at. Why do it, if you are going to be mediocre.? At the end of the day, you want to be great."
Franklin isn't yet sure how good his runners are as a team and he isn't sure they can win Saturday's meet. "But I know we have a pretty good team," he said. "On the men's side, we were six points away from beating BYU for the conference title last year. On the women's side, we will be much better than last year.
"I think our top three runners (men) can run with anybody in the country. And now we have to find out what the back end can do.
"This meet is important for many reasons. Primarily, it's a great chance for our sea-level kids to get their first race at altitude. They've been training at altitude, but they need to see what a high-altitude race really feels like. This meet is also important for our runners that are coming off of redshirt seasons to see what kind of progress they've made over the past 12 months."
Editor's note: Richard Stevens is a former Associate Sports Editor and sports columnist for The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Previous articles are available at The Richard Stevens Corner