May 15, 2009
LARAMIE, Wyo. - The University of New Mexico men's and women's track and field teams appear right at home at the highest Division I track stadium in the country. New Mexico picked up six all-conference medals, including senior Whitney Johnson's stunning victory in the women's pole vault, today on the first full day of competition at the Mountain West Conference Outdoor Championships at Wyoming's Louis S. Madrid Sports Complex.
The balanced men's team scored in virtually every finals event, with several athletes placing well above their seed, en route to a third place score of 44 - just two behind host Wyoming and 39 off first place BYU - through seven event finals. New Mexico also saw nearly all of its preliminary competitors advance to Saturday's finals, including seniors Jermaine McQueen and Jarrin Solomon who combined to clock the fastest times of the day in the 100, 200, and 400 meters.
Johnson was the story of the day for the Lobos as she joined Bridgid Isworth (2004) as the second woman in UNM history to capture a conference pole vault title. Johnson, who entered the meet tied with two other women for the third-best jump in the league this season, cleared a facility record 12' 11 ½" (3.95m) - her best performance since she set the UNM outdoor pole vault record as a sophomore in 2006.
The fifth-year senior from Mission Viejo, Calif. had never finished higher than fourth in the MWC outdoors and hadn't medaled since a third place finish in her MWC debut at the 2005 Indoor Championships. Top-ranked Kari McAllister, a junior from BYU, was second with a jump of 12 7 ½" (3.85m).
Shortly after clearing 13 feet as a sophomore Johnson suffered a freak training accident that resulted in major knee surgery and nearly decimated her career. After taking a medical redshirt year in 2007 she had struggled to approach 12' 6" before this spring's breakthrough campaign.
Junior teammate Aditi Majumdar added half a point in the event, tying for eighth and scoring for the first time in her career with a jump of 11' 1 ¾" (3.40m).
The New Mexico men and women were oustanding in the final track event of the day, the first 10,000-meter race ever held at the Madrid Sports Complex. Running at a daunting 7,168 feet above sea level in Laramie, the men's trio of junior transfer Jacob Kirwa, senior Mat Ashton, and sophomore Brock Hagerman piled up 17 points in the event.
Kirwa finished second to earn all-MWC honors for the first time on the track with an altitude-adjusted time of 30:51.38 - just 1.25 seconds behind the winner, BYU's Stephen Shay. Ashton turned in his finest MWC track performance, placing fourth with an adjusted time of 30:54.74 - 2.3 seconds ahead of his teammate Hagerman, who was fifth.
Later, the women's tandem of Corrigan and Archer combined for 14 points and a pair of all-MWC medals as Corrigan grabbed silver and Archer took the bronze. UNM had never finished higher than fourth in the MWC women's 10K prior to tonight.
Corrigan finished just 3.27 seconds behind BYU's Cecily Lemmon with an altitude adjusted time of 35:32.70, while Archer crossed in an altitude adjusted 36:13.76.
Senior Domnick Meadows sparked the Lobos early with a third place finish in the long jump. Meadows picked up the first outdoor medal for UNM in the men's long jump since 2006 with a leap of 23' ¾" (7.03m). It was the fourth career all-MWC medal, but third this year for the Albuquerque Del Norte product. Meadows was the runner-up in the long and triple jumps this year at the MWC Indoor Championships.
New Mexico freshman Ty Kirk was seventh with a mark of 21' 9" (6.63m) in his first collegiate long jump competition. The wide receiver for the Lobo football team is the MWC's top-ranked triple jumper, which will be held tomorrow.
In other early finals action, sophomore Alex Willis turned in the best performance of his young career, finishing six spots above his seed and becoming the 20th Lobo to qualify for the NCAA regional meet with a sixth place finish in the 3,000m steeplechase. Willis' altitude-adjusted time of 9:03.56 was nearly seven seconds faster than his previous best, the fastest by a Lobo since 1988, and moved him into eighth on the UNM all-time performers list.
It was also the highest finish by a Lobo in the MWC steeplechase. New Mexico hadn't scored in the event in four years and had never placed better than eighth at the MWC Championships.
UNM added nine points in the high jump behind all-conference honoree Brandon Simpson and senior Josh Cosio. Simpson, a freshman from Albuquerque Cibola High School, tied for third and matched his best mark of the year with a jump of 6' 6 ¾" (2.00m), giving the Lobos an all-MWC medalist in the even for the sixth time in the past eight years. Cosio, an Albuquerque Manzano product, tied for fifth (6' 4 ¾" - 1.95m) in his final collegiate competition.
Junior Matthew Henry-Marshall represented the Lobos well in the throws, scoring for the second straight year in the discus (seventh) and for the first time in the hammer (sixth).
After fouling on all three attempts in the hammer last year, Henry-Marshall uncorked a career-best throw of 174' 7" (53.21m) to finish five spots above his seed. It was the best finish by a Lobo in the event since 2000 and he was the first to score since 2004. The Albuquerque High School product capped his day with a mark of 161' 9" (49.30m) in the discus to match his ranking entering the meet.
Back on the women's side, senior Stasia Ploskonka recorded the highest finish by a Lobo in the MWC women's 3,000m steeplechase, taking fourth with an altitude-adjusted time of 11:18.86. The Albuquerque Manzano product finished four spots above her seed.
UNM picked up five points in the women's long jump as junior Alesha Walker finished fifth (19' 11" - 6.07m) and sophomore Asal Salehpoor placed eighth (18' 11 ¾" - 5.78m). Senior Brittany Smith was 10th (18' ¼" - 5.49m) as UNM became the only school in the league with three top-10 long jumpers, despite missing two of its biggest threats in Deanna Young and Sandy Fortner (both redshirting).
Preliminary RacesNew Mexico's Jermaine McQueen sent a clear message to the rest of the league that he is indeed for real, clocking the fastest times of the day in both the 100 and 200 meters.
McQueen's altitude-adjusted 10.37 in the 100 (10.31 raw) was the third-fastest in MWC Championships history and moved him up to second on the UNM all-timer performers list. He came back a few hours later to clock an adjusted 20.99 (20.87 raw) in the 200, becoming the fifth man in Lobo history to run under 21 seconds in the event.
School record holder Gabriel Okon was New Mexico's last conference champion in the short sprints, sweeping 1987 Western Athletic Conference titles in both the 100 and 200. The Lobos have only medaled once in the 100 at the MWC meet (Quincy Wright, second in 2002) and have finished second twice in the 200 (Ahmed Raji, 2003 and Larry Davis, 2001).
Freshman Thomas Trujillo also had a solid day, joining McQueen in the finals with a season-best adjusted time of 21.42 (21.30 raw) in the 200 and adjusted 10.72 (10.66 raw) in the 100. The Rio Rancho, N.M. product moved up two spots from his seed to claim the eighth and final qualifying spot in the 200.
Senior Jarrin Solomon, meanwhile, clocked the fastest time of the day in the 400 prelims, cruising across the line with an adjusted time of 47.80 (47.59 raw). Solomon has won the last two MWC 400 races he's participated in. He won the 2007 Outdoor crown, then returned from a redshirt year to win the 2009 Indoor title in February.
Fellow senior Lee Emanuel, the 2008 MWC 1,500m champion, also had no trouble in the preliminary round of the 800. Emanuel captured heat two with ease with an adjusted time of 1:54.24. Sophomore teammate Ryan Steadman recorded the third-fastest time of the day in heat one, crossing in an altitude-adjusted 1:53.42. New Mexico hasn't had a conference champion in the 800 since 1983.
Junior Ashley Gibson secured her place in the women's 1,500 finals with the third-fastest time of the day, an adjusted 4:49.98. Gibson will look to be the first Lobo to score in the event since 2004.
Later, senior Andrea Wright ran the fourth-fastest 800, an adjusted 2:16.66, as she attempts to be the first UNM woman to score in the event since 2005. Alesha Walker became the Lobos' first 100-meter finalist in three years with an adjusted time of 12.00 (11.94 raw), while fellow junior Kim Perkins moved on to the 400 hurdles finals for the second straight season. Perkins' adjusted time of 1:01.45 (1:01.24 raw) was the fifth-fastest of the day.
Saturday's event finals get underway at noon and are expected to wrap up by 4 p.m.