Stevens: New Mexico Lobos Cross Country 2011 Season Preview
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  08/30/2011
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Aug. 30, 2011

Week 1 -- Meet Notes Get Acrobat Reader

Lobo High School/Collegiate Invitational:The meet that attracts more than 1,200 runners begins at 8 a.m., Saturday at the UNM North Golf Course with a community run. The collegiate men start at 9:55 a.m. and the collegiate women go at 10:30 a.m. The high school varsity boys start at 8:45 a.m. and the high school girls take off at 9:20 a.m.

Collegiate Teams Participating: Estrella Mountain CC, Fort Lewis College, Navajo Technical College, New Mexico Highlands, New Mexico State, UTEP


By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

Joe Franklin'sbig secret is out. The Lobo coach no longer can sidestep or dance around the possibilities his talented New Mexico Lobo women have jammed into their running shoes. They are locked and loaded -- and also targeted.

Franklin has no one to blame but the national preseason poll for letting this cat out of the Lobo bag: The New Mexico Lobo women's cross country team is ranked No. 2 in the nation.

It probably would be fitting if these Lobos simply began the season with a target on their backs to go along with any names or numbers Franklin decides to attach to their jersey.

Actually, the target is there no matter what Joe does or says. His Lobo women are the defending Mountain West champions, the defending NCAA Mountain Regional champions, preseason No. 1 in the 2011 Mountain Regional run, and preseason No. 2 nationally behind locked and loaded Georgetown.

What that ranking represents is talent, potential and the luck factor that always accompanies any team into the grueling runs over the grass and dirt of this fall season.

"They are looking at what you did last year, who you have coming back, and realizing that the kids usually get better," said Franklin. "We have a good group and our depth is significant. We are in the mix. I think that's nice."

Of course, you have to factor in Franklin's ability for understatement. He probably thought Hurricane Irene was a nice, little storm.

Yeah, his Lobo women are a good group. He returns Natalie Gray, the Mountain's Cross Country Athlete of The Year and defending MW champ. He returns Sarah Waldron, No. 2 in the MW meet, and Ruth Senior, No. 3 at the Mountain West run.

He returns those three All-MWC runners. Gray and Senior were also All-Americans for the Lobo team that finished a school-best fifth at the NCAA national run. Kirsty Milner, a Second Team All-MWC runner, also is back.

Franklin also returns Lacey Oeding, who sat out the 2010 season with a toe injury. Oeding is good and surely factors into UNM's No. 2 ranking. She was the MW runner-up in 2008 as a freshman and was the league's Freshman of The Year. She was All-MWC and also All-NCAA Mountain Region that year.

Oeding gives Franklin another front-line runner to add to that "significant" depth provided by runners such as Kaitlyn Barry, Janna Mitsos, Christina Gastfield, Imogen Ainsworth and Kirsten Follett.

"We have a good group back," said Franklin. "There are very few times you have a chance to win a national title. We have a chance and the women all know they have a shot.

"But we also are one of eight teams that have the same chance. I know the women are thinking about things like that, but I'm more worried about the bus showing up on time."

Franklin actually has more to worry about on the men's side, but it's not exactly that his plate is empty on that side of the roster. He lost a handful of talent in Rory Fraser, Keith Gerrard, David Bishop and Brock Hagerman.

He returns Ross Millington, who finished eighth at the Mountain West meet, his first run of the 2010 season. A bad break for UNM last season was Nicholas Kiprutorunning on a stress fracture. He is healthy going into the 2011 season.

Senior Ross Millington

The strong addition of Julian DiMariagives Franklin a triple threat for quality points. The key on the men's side is for younger or inexperienced runners to step up with strong finishes.

"We didn't have Kipruto at the end last year and Millington was hurt most of last year," said Franklin, who saw his Lobo men finish 16th at nationals. "I think this team is similar to last year's team.

"We have a chance to be strong one to three and then we need depth from guys like Sean Stam, Patrick Ortiz, Allen Pittman, Vincent Montoya, Mike Asay, just to throw out a few names.

"We don't have as much room for error this year because we don't have the depth. We have a lot of young guys who need to step up and run well. It's time for them to get going."

The Mountain meet will be without Brigham Young this season, a traditional power in both cross country and track & field. The Lobos swept the MWC titles in 2010 and 2009 on both sides and have a good shot to three-peat.

"Colorado State and Air Force have gotten significantly better on the men's side. Our women have a shot," Franklin said through a sly smile."

Franklin said a big addition to his 2011 schedule is the Wisconsin meet. "In my tenure as a Lobo coach, other than the national championships, this will be the best meet ever on our schedule," he said. "The teams coming are amazing: Oregon, Stanford, Georgetown, Villanova.

"It seems that everyone has decided to go there. They probably will have 20 to 25 of the Top 30 teams in the country. It's big."