2005 Track & Field Season One Of the Best Of The Henry-Era
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  07/15/2005
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

July 15, 2005

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The 2005 track and field season proved to be one of the best in head coach Matt Henry's five-year tenure. New Mexico unveiled its new state of the art indoor track at the Albuquerque Convention Center and went on to a record setting winter season. During the outdoor campaign, school records continued to fall and the UNM men and women had their best combined performance at a conference championship meet in 15 years. The year concluded with senior Amanda Barnes (Carlsbad, N.M.) and juniors Dan Feltman (Deming, N.M.) and Matt Keeran (Albuquerque La Cueva) giving New Mexico its largest contingent at the NCAA Outdoor Championship meet since 1991. It also marked the first time in twenty years that three in-state products represented the Lobos at the national meet.

During the indoor and outdoor seasons, Lobo athletes combined to earn all-Mountain West Conference honors 22 times and win four gold medals at the MWC Championships. Senior Matt Gonzales, meanwhile, capped his remarkable career by earning All-America honors in the 5,000 meters in his NCAA Indoor Championships debut. Following the season, 37 men and women earned a spot on the MWC Academic all-conference team, including 18 who were given MWC Scholar-Athlete Awards for posting a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or higher.

FORT COLLINS, COLO. - The UNM men and women earned all-conference honors 14 times en route to their best combined performance at a conference meet in 15 years. Juniors Dan Feltman (decathlon) and Matt Keeran (javelin)

MWC decathlon champion Dan Feltman

took home MWC titles, while rookies Ariel Burr (400), Kristan Matison (100), Shadrack Kiptoo-Biwott (800 & 1,500) and Jarrin Solomon (400) were among the all-MWC honorees. The New Mexico men scored 107.5 points to finish fourth, while the women tallied their best score since 2000, to finish sixth (64.5 points).

The men surpassed the 100-point plateau for the second time in the past four years, under fifth-year head coach Matt Henry. It was the team's second-highest output since 1990, only behind the 125.5 points scored by Henry's 2002 team. Prior to Henry's arrival, the Lobos had gone 11 straight years without reaching the century mark. The New Mexico women moved up two spots from the previous year to earn their best place in the standings since 2001. The Lobos finished just 1.5 points behind of fifth place UNLV.

The men and women combined for 172 points over the four-day meet, the best combined scoring output since 1990 when the men finished third in the Western Athletic Conference Championships and the women were the runners-up in the High Country Athletic Conference.

Since taking over at his alma mater in the summer of 2000, UNM head coach Matt Henry has made New Mexico's finest high school track and field athletes the cornerstone of his up-and-coming program. This year, over 80 percent (74 total) of Henry's Lobos hailed from the Land of Enchantment, including 31 former New Mexico high school state champions on the men's and women's roster. Former prep champs Amanda Barnes (shot put - 5A Carlsbad HS), Dan Feltman (5 events - 4A Deming HS) and Matt Keeran (javelin - 5A Albuquerque La Cueva HS) represented UNM at the 2005 NCAA Outdoor Championships, marking the first time in 20 years that three New Mexicans have donned the cherry and silver at the NCAA Championships. In 1985, Albuquerque natives Ted Crouch (hammer), Carole Roybal (3,000m) and Pam Posey (100m) were among the five UNM men and women to qualify for the national meet.

For the first time in program history, two New Mexico men were ranked among the Trackwire Dandy Dozen in their respective events during the outdoor season. Senior Matt Gonzales was the first Lobo to be ranked in two events (5,000 and 10,000 meters) in the first Dandy Dozen rankings of the year, and was joined in early April by junior pole vaulter Derek Mackel, who earned a national ranking for the first time in his career. Gonzales was listed as high as fourth in each event, while Mackel climbed as high as seventh. Former pole vaulter and current volunteer coach Branden Bennett was the only other Lobo man to be ranked by Trackwire early in the 2003 season.

University of New Mexico senior Amanda Barnes and junior Derek Mackel each won their first Mountain West Conference Athlete of the Week awards during the 2005 outdoor season.

Barnes received the award after her record-breaking 52-09.50 throw on April 23 at the UC San Diego Triton Invitational. The throw shattered the MWC record, set in 2001 by Colorado State's Liz Toman, by over eight inches.

Mackel's third-place finish in the Section A pole vault at the Texas Relays on April 9, earned him his first Athlete of the Week award. The Albuquerque native's personal-best mark of 17-08.50 was the second-best mark in Lobo history, behind three-time All-American Simon Arkell's 1991 mark of 18-02.00. Mackel surpassed his personal-best mark by almost eight inches as he defeated two of the nation's top-ten pole vaulters.

Five women's records were set this spring, bringing the total to seven since head coach Matt Henry took charge of the program in 2001.

Senior Amanda Barnes bettered her own mark in the shot put on April 23 in San Diego with a toss of 52-09.50, while junior Jamie Fishencord surpassed her hammer throw record with a mark of 192-06 at home in Albuquerque. Barnes also recaptured the discus record from Fishencord with a throw of 166-11 in Albuquerque.

Amanda Barnes set four school records in 2005, securing her place as the greatest women's thrower in UNM history.

True freshman Stasia Ploskonka became the third UNM woman ever to compete in the 3,000-meter steeplechase this year and went on to break the four-year old school record in event with a time of 12:06.25 at the Mesa Classic. Fellow rookie Ariel Burr capped the year by breaking the 2001 record in the 400 with an altitude adjusted time of 54.11 at the MWC Championships in Fort Collins.

During the spring, 16 New Mexico athletes earned qualifying marks for either the NCAA national or regional championship meets. Three UNM runners qualified in the men's 5,000 and two qualified in the 1,500. The Lobos also had a pair of regional qualifiers in the men's pole vault and women's javelin. Seniors Amanda Barnes (shot put & discus), Ben Ortega (5,000 & 10,000) and Jordan Parker (shot put & discus), and freshman Shadrack Kiptoo-Biwott (1,500 & 5,000) all attained qualifying times/marks in two events.

During the 2004 outdoor season, 12 Lobos earned qualifying marks for either the national or regional meets. UNM athletes qualified in four different women's events and seven men's events last year. Matt Gonzales (10,000) and Mark Johnson (decathlon) represented New Mexico at the 2004 national championship meet. The following is a look at the 2005 qualifiers:

NCAA Automatic Qualifiers
(1 in 1 men's events)

Sr. Matt Gonzales
10,000m • 28:17.46 • Cardinal Invite - Stanford, Calif. (May 1)

NCAA Provisional Qualifiers
(2 in 2 men's events)

Jr. Dan Feltman
Decathlon • 7,278 pts. • Mt. SAC Relays - Azusa, Calif. (April 13-14)

Sr. Ben Ortega
10,000m • 29:10.34 • Stanford Invite - Stanford, Calif. (March 25)

NCAA Midwest Regional Qualifiers
(15 in 8 men's and 6 women's events)

Sr. Amanda Barnes
Shot Put • 52-09.50 • Triton Invite - San Diego, Calif. (April 23)
Discus • 166-11 • Don Kirby Invite - Albuquerque, N.M. (April 30)

Fr. Ariel Burr
400m • 54.11 • MWC Championships - Fort Collins, Colo. (May 14)

So. Robert Caldwell
Pole Vault • 17-00.75 • Texas Relays - Austin, Texas (April 7)

Sr. Jamie Fishencord
Hammer • 192-06 • Don Kirby Invite - Albuquerque, N.M. (April 30)

Sr. Matt Gonzales
1,500m • 3:43.31 • Stanford Invite - Stanford, Calif. (March 26)
5,000m • 13:40.57 • Mt. SAC Relays - Walnut, Calif. (April 15)

Sr. Veronica R. Gonzales
Javelin • 150-07 • Triton Invite - San Diego, Calif. (April 23)

Fr. Whitney Johnson
Pole Vault • 12-11.50 • Texas Relays - Austin, Texas (April 9)

Jr. Matt Keeran
Javelin • 211-05 • MWC Championships - Fort Collins, Colo. (May 14)

Fr. Shadrack Kiptoo-Biwott
1,500m • 3:46.53 • Don Kirby Invite - Albuquerque, N.M. (April 30)
5,000m • 14:03.32 • Stanford Invite - Stanford, Calif. (March 25)

Sr. Derek Mackel
Pole Vault • 17-08.50 • Texas Relays - Austin, Texas (April 9)

Jr. Jessica McIntyre
Javelin • 144-10 • Willie Williams Classic - Tucson, Ariz. (March 18)

Sr. Alfred Neale
High Jump • 6-10.75 • Springtime Invite - El Paso, Texas (April 2)

Sr. Ben Ortega
5,000m • 14:13.85 • Mt. SAC Relays - Walnut, Calif. (April 15)

Sr. Jordan Parker
Shot Put • 55-03.00 • Willie Williams Classic - Tucson, Ariz. (March 18)
Discus • 171-00 • Don Kirby Invite - Albuquerque, N.M. (April 30)

Fr. Jarrin Solomon
400m • 47.05 • MWC Championships - Fort Collins, Colo. (May 14)

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - Matt Gonzales proved once again to be one of the most underrated distance talents in the nation as he knocked off six higher-ranked runners in a fourth place finish in the men's 5,000 at the 2005 NCAA Indoor Championships at the Randal Tyson Indoor Track Center. The University of New Mexico senior improved his own school record with a time of 13:45.72 in just his second career indoor 5K, finishing less than three seconds behind Stanford senior Ian Dobson, who won the race in 13:43.36. A native of Santa Fe, Gonzales earned All-America honors for the third and final time in his track career, snapping a 15-year drought for the Lobos indoors.

Matt Gonzales earned All-America honors for the third time in his track career, but first indoors, with his fourth place finish in the 5,000.

After completing a near wire-to-wire victory (13:49.06) in his first indoor 5,000-meter race the previous week at Notre Dame, Gonzales stayed back in the middle of the 15-man pack for much of the race before making a late charge. Although he passed a pair of runners in the final 400 meters, including top-seeded Matt Tegenkamp of Wisconsin, UNM head coach Matt Henry said the leaders had pulled a bit too far away for the tenacious 5-5 Gonzales to catch.

"It's not typical of the way he normally races, but we thought we'd try to sit back this time and see what we could do," Henry said. "I know we both wish we could do it over again tomorrow, but he showed how special he is once again tonight and I couldn't be more proud of his performance."

Dobson, an eight-time All-American, won his first career national title after finishing fifth in the 5,000 at last year's NCAA Indoor Championship meet. Arizona junior Robert Cheseret of Kenya finished second (13:44.51), while Wisconsin sophomore Chris Solinsky was third (13:45.34).

"This was a very, very good field," Henry said. "Just to get in this race in the final week of the season was something special. We're really excited about what happened and can't wait to see what Matt can do outdoors."

Gonzales, who was the first UNM man to compete at the NCAA Indoor Championships since 1993, became New Mexico's first indoor All-American since weight thrower Darren Crawford in 1990 and the first Lobo to earn All-America honors inside on the track since Ibrahim Hussein finished third in the 1,000-yard run in 1984.

A two-time outdoor track All-American, he became the first men's runner in Mountain West Conference history to earn All-America honors in the indoor 5,000 and never finished lower than fourth in his three career national championship races on the oval.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The New Mexico men enjoyed their best scoring output in 15 years at the Mountain West Conference Indoor Championships, finishing fifth with 67 points, just 11 points shy of fourth place Wyoming. The Lobo women finished with 31 points, an eight-point improvement on their 2004 score, but dropped one spot from the previous year, placing seventh overall.

The two squads combined to earn all-MWC honors in eight events, including conference titles in the 3,000 and 5,000 by Northern New Mexico distance stars Matt Gonzales and Ben Ortega. Four years after winning his first league title as a true freshman, Ortega found himself standing atop the medals podium once again after running a career-best time of 14:06.95 en route to an upset victory in the 5,000.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- The University of New Mexico track and field team and a large, enthusiastic group of friends gathered at the Albuquerque Convention Center on Jan. 15 to welcome back indoor track competition after an 18-year absence from the Duke City. The collegiate athletes, which included the host Lobos and representatives from Oklahoma State, Adams State and Western State, were joined by over 300 athletes of all ages from the community.

Albuquerque mayor Martin Chavez and city council president Brad Winter were also on hand for the meet's opening ceremonies. Chavez was the official starter for the first running event of the day, a celebrity 4x200-meter relay race between the Albuquerque Fire Department and Albuquerque Police Department. Winter later competed in the men's pole vault, tying for first in the second flight with a height of 11-06.25.

The city of Albuquerque's first indoor track meet since the 1987 Western Athletic Conference Championships was a rousing success as competitors from ages 3 to 82 enjoyed the city's state-of-the-art Mondo track. While meet directors did not have enough time to secure NCAA Division I certification, several Lobos turned in impressive early season results in the exhibition meet.

Senior Amanda Barnes opened the day with a fine performance in the shot put, winning the event with ease with a mark of 47-04.50. Fellow seniors Jaime Hall and Cameron Clarke, meanwhile, swept the 800 meters in the first event on the oval. Hall clocked a time of 2:19.56, while Clarke was just off his personal record with a time of 1:55.62.

Ben Ortega opened the year with an impressive performance at the new indoor facility at the Albuquerque Convention Center before going on to win the MWC indoor 5K title.

Jacquelyne Gallegos, a junior in indoor eligibility, ran a sizzling time of 10:13.68 to take second in the 3,000. Had results been official, her approximate altitude adjusted time would have been a personal best 9:51. In the men's race, fifth-year senior Ben Ortega would have also shattered his PR with his runner-up finish. Ortega clocked a time of 8:31.05, which would have translated to an altitude adjusted time of about 8:12.

"This is the best indoor track I've ever seen," said Ortega after his race. "The banks (of the indoor track) were so perfect, I hardly noticed them. I just felt like I was floating out there and I only wish we could move the conference meet here this year so I could have one more chance to run on this surface."

Perhaps the best performance of the day came in the meet finale, when New Mexico's Derek Mackel, an indoor junior, flew a career-best 17-00.75 to win the men's pole vault. Mackel, who set his official indoor career-best of 16-01.25 last winter, just missed on his final three attempts at 17-06.

"I'm really excited about what happened today," said UNM head coach Matt Henry. "I'm excited about the performances and that so many of our athletes were able to get an early start on the 2005 season. This facility is an outstanding step forward for track and field in the state of New Mexico. I've already had calls from about 15 universities asking if they can come and compete here next year. This was a special day and the future is only going to get better."

Good timing, a proactive city council and an irresistible sale all contributed to the return of indoor track and field to the Albuquerque after nearly a 20-year absence. During the spring of 2004 Albuquerque city leaders learned of a $1 million unused and undamaged indoor track sitting in storage in Canada that could be purchased for a mere $500,000. The state-of-the-art Mondo track had originally been ordered, then later declined, for use in the Los Angeles Staples Center arena.

The track finally found a home inside the Convention Center in downtown Albuquerque and made its debut on Jan. 15, 2005 for the inaugural Albuquerque All-Comers meet. Nearly identical to the track used by the University of Arkansas at the Randal Tyson Track Center, Albuquerque's new indoor facility received rave reviews from athletes, coaches and fans. Like the Arkansas facility, which has been the site of every NCAA Indoor Championship meet since 2000, Albuquerque and University of New Mexico officials believe the city now has an indoor track that will be a destination for some of the nation's premier events.

The new Albuquerque indoor track is a 200-meter, 60-degree banked track that has 60m straightaways running the entire length of the facility. It also includes men's and women's jumping runways and pits, as well as an areas for shot put, pole vault and high jump events. The surface of the track is red and white Mondo.

The Albuquerque All-Comers meet marked the University of New Mexico's first indoor competition at home since hosting the 1987 Western Athletic Conference Championships in Tingley Coliseum at the New Mexico State Fairgrounds. Current UNM assistant coach Scott Steffan, who competed at the '87 WAC Championships as freshman decathlete, said the new indoor track will provide a tremendous boost to the head coach Matt Henry's rejuvenated Lobo track and field program. The U.S. Air Force Academy has hosted every Mountain West Conference Indoor Championship meet since the league formed in 1999, but UNM coaches are hoping for a change of venue as early as next year.

"We've now joined Air Force as the only two programs in the Mountain West that have NCAA sanctioned indoor track facilities," said Steffan. "We're going to host one meet this year, but, with the city's help, we would like to once again make Albuquerque one of the country's top destinations for indoor track competition. We've already put in a bid to host the 2006 conference meet and we think this could be a future site for the NCAA Championships as well, which is great for our recruits to know."

In the mid-60s Albuquerque was one of the nation's elite indoor track and field locations. The 1966 AAU Indoor Nationals (now known as the USA Indoor Track & Field Championships) drew a two-day total of nearly 20,000 fans to Tingley Coliseum and was featured on the March 14 cover of Sports Illustrated. Albuquerque officials were able to lure the meet away from its regular home at Madison Square Garden in New York City that year.

Under fifth-year head coach Matt Henry, the Lobos have rewritten the UNM indoor record book. Since Henry took over the program in 2001, an amazing 13 winter records have beet set, including five in 2005. Junior Jacquelyne Gallegos had one of the more impressive record-setting performances as she opened the season with the best 3,000-meter race in UNM history at the Air Force Invitational.

Two years removed from a near career-ending auto accident, Gallegos secured her status as one of the finest distance runners ever to compete at the University of New Mexico. The Pojoaque, N.M. native won the seeded 3K event with an altitude adjusted time of 9:54.07, besting Kelly Dix's (now Kelly Dunbar) 1993 record by 0.3 seconds. Dunbar, who is currently a volunteer assistant coach for the Lobos, still owns the UNM indoor 5,000-meter record which she also recorded in 1993.

Senior Amanda Barnes reclaimed her weight throw record from teammate Jamie Fishencord with a throw of 60-10.75 at the Mountain West Conference Championships and also improved her own standard in the shot put with a toss of 49-04.50. On the men's side, senior Matt Gonzales clocked a record time of 13:45.72 in his All-America run in the 5,000-meters at the NCAA Championships. Teammate Ben Ortega had set the previous mark with an altitude-adjusted time of 14:08.70 before Gonzales' late season surge. Gonzales also teamed with freshman Shadrack Kiptoo-Biwott, senior Cameron Clarke and sophomore Randle McCain to smash the UNM distance medley record with an altitude-adjusted time of 9:46.26 at the MWC meet.