Oct. 29, 2003
Just three days before the 2003 Mountain West Conference Cross Country Championships were set to begin at Balboa Park in San Diego, the MWC office announced that due to the poor air quality caused by the disastrous wildfires burning around the area, the conference meet will be moved to Albuquerque. University of New Mexico head coach Matt Henry stepped in and volunteered to host the 14-team event, which will now be held at the UNM North Golf Course on Saturday, Nov. 1. The men's 6,000-meter race will begin at 10 a.m. (MDT), followed by the men's 8K run at 11. Admission is free.
Complete information and results from the Mountain West Conference Championships can be found on the official meet websites of the Mountain West Conference and the University of New Mexico athletic department:
MWC Championships: www.themwc.com or www.golobos.com
MWC CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY
New Mexico will host the Mountain West Championship meet for second time in three years. Two years ago, UNM welcomed the conference championships back to Albuquerque after a 27-year absence. The Lobo men and women each finished fifth in the meet, which was run at the Paradise Hills Golf Course in Northwest Albuquerque. Last year in Provo, Utah, New Mexico earned its best MWC finish on the men's side (third), while the women placed sixth. The BYU men and women have swept the team titles every year since the first MWC Championship meet in 1999. Overall, the UNM men have won five conference titles (second among current MWC teams), with the last coming at the 1988 Western Athletic Conference Championship meet.
* under head coach Matt Henry
SCOUTING THE MOUNTAIN WEST FIELD
When it comes to distance running talent, few conferences in America can rival the Mountain West. Three of the league's six men's teams enter the weekend ranked among the top-15 in the nation. After a stellar performance at the NCAA Pre-National meet, Air Force vaulted in the No. 9 spot, while perennial powers Colorado State and BYU are 10th and 12th, respectively. On the women's side, the back-to-back national champion (four titles overall) Cougars are currently ranked second with six first place votes, while Colorado State sits at No. 22.
A LOOK BACK AT THE '02 MWC CHAMPIONSHIPS
PROVO, Utah -- Sophomore Cameron Clarke and junior Matt Gonzales finished third and fifth, respectively, to lead the University of New Mexico men's cross country team to a third place finish at the Mountain West Conference Cross Country Championships on Nov. 1 at a frigid East Bay Golf Course in Provo, Utah. Despite the absence of injured all-conference runner Ben Ortega, New Mexico moved up two spots to earn its best finish at a conference meet since taking third at the 1991 Western Athletic Conference Championships.
Junior Sarah Gonzales repeated her 2001 performance, placing 16th to lead the UNM women to sixth place, a mere six points out of fifth. UNM was competing in its fourth straight meet without 2001 NCAA Championship qualifier Jacquelyne Gallegos, who was out for the season due to injury. Top-ranked Brigham Young cruised to its fourth straight conference title in the women's race with a perfect score of 15, while the 10th-ranked Cougar men edged No. 14 Colorado State 37-42.
Clarke improved 20 places from his finish at last year's conference championship meet in Albuquerque to earn first team all-MWC honors for the first time in his career. The former Sandia High School standout covered the 8,000-meter course in 24:40.7, 23.9 seconds behind the winner, sophomore Kip Kangogo of BYU. Gonzales, who was second in 2001, finished in a tight pack of runners, just three seconds behind Clarke (24:43.5), to earn first team all-conference honors for the second-straight season.
Perhaps the real story for the men however, was the performances of juniors Nick Martinez and Sean Flaherty, and sophomore Chad Dawson. Forced to carry the bulk of the team's scoring load with Ortega out and freshman Jeremy Johnson (38th - 26:10.0) hampered with a strained hip flexor, the trio responded with a clutch effort. Martinez improved 23 spots from his 2001 conference finish to take 19th (25:06.0), followed by Flaherty (22nd - 25:08.0) and Dawson (23rd - 25:24.5), who improved 16 and 10 spots, respectively, over last year's finishes. The trio's performance helped New Mexico drop 15 points off its 2001 total to finish with a score of 72, 22 points ahead of fourth place Air Force.
Meanwhile, on the women's side, Sarah Gonzales clocked the UNM women's fastest time of the season and also matched her personal-best by completing the 6,000m course in 22:16. Remarkably, her time and 16th place finish, just two spots from second team all-MWC honors, were identical to her performance in 2001. Freshmen Timmie Murphy (23:25.7) and Janice Tosa (23:33.7) finished 38th and 39th, respectively. Sophomores Vanessa Funston (23:55.1) and Racquel Ricci (24:19.5) were 43rd and 48th, respectively, to round out the Lobo scoring. New Mexico, which finished fifth last year with a score of 139 points, was also missing another injured scoring runner, freshman Karina Hill-Hurtado. BYU freshman Kassi Anderson was the individual champion with a winning time of 20:55.2.
UNIVERSITY OF NEW MEXICO NORTH GOLF COURSE * The Home of Lobo Cross CountryThanks to the efforts of Matt Henry and his staff, University of New Mexico runners have the luxury of competing in one of the top cross country environments in the nation. Located 5,085 feet above sea level in the heart of Lobo country, the UNM North Golf Course has been the home of Lobo cross country since Henry took over the program in 2000.
In their four years at UNM, Henry and his staff have worked to re-establish Albuquerque as one of the premier running locations in the West. Blessed with excellent weather throughout much of the fall, the Duke City has been the site of the Mountain West Conference Cross Country Championships, the elite NCAA Mountain Region Championships as well as the biggest cross country meet in the state of New Mexico each year, the annual Lobo Invitational.
Each year thousands of vocal and knowledgeable New Mexico distance running enthusiasts pack the North Golf Course to see their homegrown Lobos compete against some of the nation's premier teams. The spectator-friendly course winds its way through the cheering crowd, giving athletes a tremendous boost. And with its ideal location, less than a mile from the main campus, many UNM runners can simply jog home after competition.
"It's right on campus and I like that," said Henry. "We're the University of New Mexico, that's our golf course, and to be able to run there is exciting. We've had a great response from our fans who have come out and watched. I know that spectators probably couldn't have a better situation than they have at the North Course. If you're willing to walk 100 meters, you can watch virtually the entire race on our course. New Mexico is a distance state. More distance runners come out of this state than anything and I want to see the entire state of New Mexico out watching these cross country meets."
Directions (the golf course is located near the corner of Yale Blvd. and Tucker Rd. on the UNM North Campus)
(from I-25): Take Lomas exit and head east on Lomas Blvd., towards the mountains. Turn left on Yale Blvd. and continue north before turning right on Tucker Rd. The golf course clubhouse and parking lot will be on the left.
(from I-40): Exit I-25 south then take Lomas exit and head east, towards the mountains, on Lomas Blvd. Turn left on Yale Blvd. and continue north before turning right on Tucker Rd. The golf course clubhouse and parking lot will be on the left.
NEW MEXICO QUICK HITS
* Senior Sean Flaherty has led the Lobo men in all four meets this fall and has recorded second place finishes in his last two races...the Lobos have been a tight group, with the scoring runners finishing less than a minute apart in three of four meets this year...UNM had a sub-minute pack spread just twice in six meets in 2002...senior Leighton Katsuda and junior Nate Clem have combined to score in seven meets this fall after failing to score in any meets in '02...true freshmen Stephen Martinez and Juan Ortega have each scored twice this fall.
* Senior Sarah Gonzales has paced the women in the last two meets and notched her second career victory at the Canyon West Classic on Oct. 18...three different women led the squad in its first three races of the season...due to injuries, junior leader Jacquelyne Gallegos (1) and promising sophomore Karina Hill-Hurtado (0) have finished a combined one race this fall...true freshman Riann Lucy has run no lower than third on the team in four meets, while fellow freshman Myrriah Gomez and first year senior Brooke Gosling, a member of the UNM Nordic ski team, have each scored in two meets.
LOBOS' LAST TIME OUT
TEMPE, Ariz. - The University of New Mexico swept the men's and women's team titles on Saturday, Oct. 18 at the Canyon West Cross Country Classic. Senior Sarah Gonzales picked up her second career victory to lead the Lobo women to their first team victory under head coach Matt Henry, while fellow senior Sean Flaherty led the men to their second straight win.
Gonzales led a pack of four runners in the top 11, completing the Kiwanis Park 5,000-meter course in a personal-best 18:43. Gonzales finished nearly eight seconds ahead of her nearest competitor, to notch her first victory since winning the 2001 Lobo Invitational in Albuquerque.
After finishing second in five meets over the past four years of Henry's tenure, the New Mexico women finally broke through against the 10-team field to capture their first team title since the 1998 season-opener at UTEP. The Lobos claimed the Canyon West crown with a season-low 31 points, 30 ahead of second place Yavapai College.
New Mexico finished with a season-best team pack spread (time difference between the team's first and fifth scoring runners) of 55 seconds. Sophomore Timmie Murphy placed fourth with a time of 19:09, just 26 seconds behind Gonzales. Freshman Riann Lucy (19:21) and sophomore Janice Tosa (19:24) continued their strong running, finishing 10th and 11th, respectively. Meanwhile, freshman Myrriah Gomez turned in a fine performance as the team's fifth scoring runner, placing 17th with a time of 19:38. Senior Brooke Gosling (23rd - 19:54) and junior Vanessa Funston (29th - 20:15) rounded out the top seven.
In the men's 8,000-meter race, Flaherty paced the Lobos for the fourth consecutive meet, clocking a time 25:22 to finish second in the 112-man field. Four New Mexico runners placed among the top 10, while No. 5 man Juan Ortega placed 12th to help the Lobos hold off Paradise Valley Community College, 32-42, for their second win of the season. Arizona State's "B" team finished third with 138 points.
Sophomore Brandon Vigil (25:48), junior Nate Clem (25:51) and senior Leighton Katsuda (25:53) joined Flaherty in the lead pack, finishing sixth, seventh and ninth, respectively. Ortega crossed then line in 26:02, ten seconds ahead of Paradise Valley's fifth and sixth runners. Senior Chris Rogers (16th - 26:16) and freshman Steven Martinez (18th - 26:16) were the sixth and seventh UNM runners to finish among the top 20.
FROM HEAD COACH Matt Henry
(on the decision to host the MWC Championships): "I was thinking on Sunday that the fires might be taken care of by the next weekend, but obviously they were more severe than I'd initially thought. On Monday, the conference office asked if anybody could put the meet on, so we thought that was something we'd like to do for several reasons. I think our weather might be a little nicer than some of the other locations and I know that our staff is very unselfish and has experience putting on meets like this the past few years."
(on the teams' performance entering the conference meet): "To be able to run at home is very exciting for our kids and they're really looking forward to it. We've been really running well over the past month. I think our women had their best performance since I've been here a few weeks ago (at the Canyon West Classic) in Arizona. Our scoring runners were 40 seconds apart, which was outstanding. We've had a pretty solid group of four who have been running together most of the year, but we challenged the rest of the girls to step up and get that fifth scorer closer to the pack. We felt there was no reason why they couldn't run with them and (freshman) Myrriah Gomez and (senior) Brooke Gosling responded to that challenge last week. Our men also won in that meet and have just been running with great heart all year long. Everybody knows we're sitting some of our top runners this year, but this group has been fighting every meet. I'm more proud than I've ever been of the effort they've given. I think we're going to give some teams headaches this Saturday."
HAIL TO THE VICTORS
In the five years prior to Matt Henry's arrival as head cross country coach at New Mexico, the Lobo men's team had notched just one meet victory. However, since Henry took control of the program in 2000, the men have captured eight team titles, including two straight this year.
Last fall the men of New Mexico opened the season undefeated through three meets (UNM did not field a full team in its fourth meet, the Cowboy Jamboree) before finishing 17th at the Pre-National Invitational. After opening with another dominating win at the Lori Fitzgerald, UNM followed with a victory over a 12-team field in their home-opener, the UNM Lobo Invitational, then notched an impressive first place finish ahead of 29 teams at the 29th annual Stanford Invitational.
The Lobo women have also gotten into the act, earning their first team title under Henry at the Canyon West Cross Country Classic on Oct. 18. New Mexico scored a season-low 31 points to pick up its first win since the 1998 season-opener at UTEP.
THEY'LL BE BACK
Head coach Matt Henry faced one of his biggest challenges this year after opting to redshirt four team leaders in seniors Matt Gonzales (Santa Fe, N.M.), Nick Martinez (Pojoaque, N.M.), Ben Ortega (Taos, N.M.) and junior Cameron Clarke (Albuquerque, N.M.) this fall.
After enduring a six-month indoor and outdoor track season, capped by his All-America performance in the 10,000 meters at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, Henry said he decided to let Gonzales take some well-deserved time off from competition. A two-time cross country All-American and all-MWC performer, Gonzales also took some personal time off this summer to spend with his family after the passing of his father.
Ortega, meanwhile, was an all-MWC honoree and NCAA Championship competitor in 2001, but was slowed considerably by leg injuries after a strong start to the 2002 season. Nagging injuries continued to hamper Ortega's training over the summer and eventually made the redshirt decision a logical choice.
Since arriving at UNM with Henry in 2000, Martinez has been a fixture among the Lobos' top-five. After competing in six meets last fall, followed by a long indoor/outdoor track season, Henry said he thought Martinez would benefit from sitting out the 2003 campaign to refresh himself on and off the cross country course.
After claiming first team all-MWC honors in 2002, Clarke appears to have a bright future ahead of him. A standout at Sandia High School, the 5-11 Clarke picked up his first career win at the UNM Lobo Invitational last year, then scorched the field at the elite Stanford Invitational for his second victory in the following meet. Injuries forced Clarke out of the Pre-National Invitational and hampered him in the Mountain Region meet, but Henry said he expects him to be something special in 2004.
"We're redshirting four very solid runners, but this has given some of our younger runners an opportunity to step up, run and grow this year," said Henry. "I think next season we'll be more experienced, stronger and hopefully healthier because of this."
Several fresh faces on the New Mexico men's and women's cross country teams are gaining valuable experience this fall. Ten runners have made their collegiate debuts, including six true freshmen. In addition, four runners on the men's and women's sides are beginning their second year of collegiate competition.
Head coach Matt Henry said he hopes this core of young runners will provide a valuable foundation for the future of the program. On the men's side, the eight first and second-year runners should give the team tremendous depth when redshirting veterans Cameron Clarke, Matt Gonzales, Nick Martinez and Ben Ortega return to action.
University of New Mexico head coach Matt Henry has built the UNM program by using his greatest natural resource: New Mexico high school distance runners. Of the 31 runners on the 2003 roster, all but two are products of New Mexico high schools. All three of the Lobos' 2001 NCAA competitors (All-American Matt Gonzales, Ben Ortega, Jacquelyne Gallegos), as well as 2002 first team all-MWC honoree Cameron Clarke, are from the Land of Enchantment.