Oct. 29, 2005
FORT COLLINS, Colo. - Junior Timmie Murphy and sophomore Leslie Luna each turned in the finest race of their careers, while senior Jacquelyne Gallegos battled through a hamstring injury to lead an unheralded University of New Mexico women's team to a second place finish at the Mountain West Conference Cross Country Championships earlier today at the Collindale Golf Course in Fort Collins, Colo. Picked fifth in the league's preseason coaches poll, New Mexico matched its highest finish ever at a conference meet as sixth-year head coach Matt Henry earned MWC Women's Coach of the Year honors.
Senior Cameron Clarke earned all-conference honors (second team) for the third time in his career, placing 11th as the Lobo men finished fifth in the team standings.
The New Mexico women were the story of the day, however, as the team finished as the conference runner-up for the fourth time in program history. UNM edged third place Colorado State, 74-75, while No. 8 BYU (28 points) won its seventh straight MWC crown.
The Lobos also placed second three times during their eight years in the High Country Athletic Conference, with the most recent occurring in 1986. Henry, the 2002 MWC Men's Outdoor Track Coach of the Year, joined Cindy Schmandt (HCAC - 1983) as the only UNM cross country coaches to earn Women's Coach of the Year honors.
Murphy and Luna shocked the field of 66 in the women's race, finishing third and sixth respectively, to earn first team all-MWC honors for the first time in their careers. Both women recorded their highest finish in any cross country race and shattered their previous best 6,000-meter time.
Murphy, who redshirted the 2004 season, had placed no higher than 30th in her two previous MWC meet appearances before notching the best finish by a UNM woman at a conference meet since current UNM assistant Kelly Dunbar (formerly Kelly Dix) was third at the 1992 Western Athletic Conference Championships. The Farmington, N.M. native sliced over a minute off her personal record in the 6K, completing the course in 21:06.7, 24 seconds behind the winner, Heidi Magill of BYU.
Luna had never finished higher than 19th in any of her eight career races and was 47th at the 2004 MWC Championships. The former Albuquerque Academy standout crossed the finish line with a time of 21:17.3, nearly two minutes faster than her previous best 6K which she ran in the 2005 season-opener at the UNM North Golf Course.
Gallegos, meanwhile, turned in one of the most courageous races of her fine career, placing 10th with a time of 21:31.1 to earn second team all-MWC honors. The Pojoaque, N.M. native suffered a serious hamstring injury while warming up for the Oct. 8 Auburn Invitational and was initially feared to be lost for the rest of the season.
UNM ran its streak to three years with at least one first team all-MWC honoree, while its three total all-conference runners were the most since 1988.
"I said earlier in the year that I thought this could be the best women's team we've had since I've been here and what they did today was really special," Henry said. "For Timmie and Leslie to be on the (first team) all-conference team was something else. And I think Jackie got a lot of her confidence back and her performance today is going to really help her at regionals."
The Lobos also received fine performances from sophomore Lindsay Barr and senior Janice Tosa, who rounded out the team's scoring. After finishing 40th a year ago at the MWC meet, Barr placed 28th with a career-best time of 22:28.6. It was her highest finish in eight meets. Tosa, meanwhile, finished 32nd overall with a career-best time of 22:36.3. It was her best effort at the conference meet since placing 27th two years ago in Albuquerque.
Freshman Seny Archuleta ran sixth on the team, finishing 39th overall with a time of 23:08.7, while junior transfer Roxann James was the Lobos' No. 7 runner (46th overall, 23:27.0). Sophomore Melanie Velarde was the final UNM competitor, crossing the line in 24:04.3 (56th).
Earlier in the men's 8K race, UNM received a solid effort from Clarke, who crossed the line in 25:03.3, but was unable to maintain its tight group running success. The pack spread between the Lobos' five scoring runners was 1:05.9, marking just the second time all season the spread has been over a minute. New Mexico finished with a score of 119, 11 points behind fourth place Wyoming.
"I'm proud of the effort our guys gave today," Henry said. "They were running up there near the front of the pack early on, but just couldn't hold on. It wasn't our best day, but we know we can do better at the regional meet."
Junior Juan Ortega ran second on the team as he notched the highest finish in his three conference meet appearances, placing 23rd overall with a time of 25:41.8. Sophomore Joseph Garcia improved 12 spots on his 2004 MWC meet performance, finishing 25th with a time of 25:45.6. Junior Steven Martinez also had his highest finish in three conference races, placing 29th with a time of 25:52.5. Senior Nate Clem capped the UNM scoring, finishing 36th overall (26:09.2).
Redshirt freshman Ezra Esquibel (42nd - 27:02.2), sophomore Michael Deason (44th - 27:28.0) and senior Frank Hemingway (47th - 28:14.9) rounded out the Lobo group. Esquibel and Hemingway were making the MWC Championships debut, while Deason was competing at the conference meet for the first time since 2003.
Both team and individual berths to the NCAA Championship meet will be at stake on Nov. 12 when the UNM men and women return to action for the NCAA Mountain Region Championships in Provo, Utah.