Stevens: Franklin's Lobos To Run in Greatest Meet In 'History Of The Sport'
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  10/13/2011
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Oct. 13, 2011

New Mexico Cross Country -- At Wisconsin/Adidas Invitational

When/Where: Friday (Oct. 14), Madison, Wis.
Meet Schedule: Women (6K) 1 p.m.; Men (8K) 1:40 p.m.; Women "B" (6K) 2:20 p.m.; Men "B" (8K): 3 p.m.

By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

To put the scope, pressure and prestige of the Wisconsin Adidas Invitational into perspective, all you really need are the words of Lobo Coach Joe Franklin:

"In my opinion and in many people's opinion, this is the best regular-season cross country meet in the history of the sport -- without a doubt," said Franklin.

Well, what else can you say? Maybe you can say that 20 of the Top 30 men's teams including No. 2 Wisconsin and No. 4 Stanford will be on the Thomas Zimmer Championship Cross Country Course on Friday.

You can also say that 19 of the Top 30 women's teams will be in Madison, Wis., including No. 1 Villanova, No. 2 Providence, No. 6 Stanford and No. 7 New Mexico.

"Just about anybody who is anybody will be there," said Franklin. "It's an incredibly deep field. This will simulate the national championship without a doubt. In fact, the field might be better than a national championship."

Franklin might be pushing that point a bit, but he does make a point. At the national finals there often are teams qualifying out of weak regions while better teams in other regions do not make the NCAA finals.

One thing is for sure: the Wisconsin run will have a bigger field. At nationals, you get the two top teams from each region and 13 at-large teams. The at-large selections guarantee the best teams will be there. In Wisconsin on Friday, there will be 39 men's teams and 42 women's teams.

There will be races within races within races. The start of this thing might look more like a stampede than a race.

"There are going to be 280 runners out there. The pack is going to be huge," said Franklin. "I`ve never experienced anything like this in my 18 years (of coaching).

"If you lose focus for 15 seconds, you can be passed by 20 people. There will be so many people out there and so much movement within the pack. You can get beat up physically and also emotionally. The depth is amazing and the course is amazing."

For sure, there are few equals in the nation when it comes to the Zimmer Course. The course was cut out of some Wisconsin rolling hills that provide a challenging run for the competitors and elevated view sites for spectators.

Franklin says his lineup of Lobo runners is somewhat tentative due to illness and minor injury, but he expects to run Natalie Gray, Ruth Senior, Sarah Waldron, Kirsty Milner, Josephine Moultrie, Imogen Ainsworth and Shawna Winnegar on the women's side.

The men have a few more question marks, but Ross Millington, Sean Stam, Nicholas Kipruto, Patrick Ortiz and Allen Pittman are expected to travel.

"On the women's side, we want to get in the mix and compete with the top teams in the meet," said Franklin. "On the men's side, we want to beat some ranked teams and get some at-large points in case we need them to get to the nationals.

"I have an idea of where I want both sides to finish. The key is to have internal pride over the last 1,000 meters and beat some people. At the end of the race, nobody is feeling great, everyone is hurting, and it comes down to how bad do you want it and how far can you push your body."

Wisconsin, ranked No. 2, is expected to battle No. 4 Stanford for the team title on the men`s side. The Badgers have won two meets and finished second in another run. Wisconsin is paced by junior Reed Connor and sophomore Michael Brice. The Badgers finished third at the 2010 nationals.

The Stanford Cardinal enter the event having won both the USF Invitational and their own Stanford Invitational. Stanford is led by All-Americans Chris Derrick and Jacob Riley, who are arguably the most formidable duo in the country with 16 All-America honors between them. Derrick is among the most decorated athletes in the nation and a favorite for the 2011 NCAA title having earned three-consecutive top-seven finishes at the NCAA championship.

The No. 6 BYU Cougars enter the event with first-place finishes in all three of their events this season, including the Notre Dame Invitational Sept. 30, which helped them jump from No. 14 to No. 6 in the national coaches' poll. BYU senior Miles Batty finished first in both the Notre Dame Invitational and BYU Invitational.

Wisconsin/Adidas Invitational's 2011 Field

College Men (39): Air Force, Arizona, #23 Arizona State, #6 BYU, California, Clemson, #28 Florida, #16 Georgetown, Georgia, Harvard, Illinois, #7 Indiana, Iowa State, Kansas, Lamar, Marquette, #26 Michigan, Michigan State, #17 Minnesota, Nebraska, #25 New Mexico, #13 Northern Arizona, #29 North Carolina, #9 NC State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, #10 Oregon, #14 Princeton, #24 Providence, Purdue, #4 Stanford, #21 Syracuse, Texas, #27 Texas A&M, #22 UCLA, #19 Villanova, Washington, William & Mary, #2 Wisconsin.

College Women (42): Air Force, #14 Arizona, Arizona State, Boston College, #27 BYU, #10 California, #30 Clemson, #22 Florida, Georgia, Harvard, Illinois, Indiana, #23 Iowa, #9 Iowa State, James Madison, Kansas, #15 Michigan State, #21 Minnesota, Nebraska, #7 New Mexico, Northern Arizona, #13 North Carolina, NC State, Northwestern, #25 Notre Dame, Ohio State, #12 Oregon, #28 Princeton, #2 Providence, Purdue, San Francisco, #6 Stanford, Stony Brook, #8 Syracuse, Texas A&M, Toledo, UCLA, Vanderbilt, #1 Villanova, #24 Washington, William & Mary, Wisconsin.