April 16, 2005
WALNUT, Calif. - Senior All-American Matt Gonzales led a fine showing by the University of New Mexico distance runners on Friday night at the Mt. SAC Relays, finishing 10th in the Invitational 5,000 meters field with a time of 13:40.57, the fastest of the year in the Midwest Region and Mountain West Conference. Earlier in the evening, senior Ben Ortega and freshman Shadrack Kiptoo-Biwott also secured their place in the regional championship field in the 5,000 and 1,500, respectively.
In just his second race of the 2005 outdoor season, Gonzales ran the second-fastest 5K of his career. He finished five seconds behind his school record, which was set in late May of 2004, and was a second faster than his time in the finals of the 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials last July. Only three other collegiate runners finished ahead of him with Stanford's Ian Dobson (13:27.45), the reigning NCAA indoor champion in the 5,000, and Ryan Hall (13:31.58) finishing fifth and sixth, respectively. Peter Kosgei of Arkansas, meanwhile, was ninth (13:36.65). Kenyan Bernard Lagat, the 1,500-meter silver medalist at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens and bronze medalist in the 2000 Games in Sydney, won the race with a time of 13:14.71.
The Santa Fe native defeated some of the premier distance men in the country, however, including Simon Bairu of Wisconsin (12th), who held off Gonzales to win the 2004 NCAA cross country title last fall. He also passed TCU's Kip Kangogo (13th), who edged Gonzales for the 2003 MWC 5,000 crown while running for BYU. Current Cougar Bryan Lindsay, the league's top-ranked 1,500 runner this year, finished 25th. The top 10,000-meter man in the conference, Brian Dumm of Air Force, was 30th.
In earlier action, Ortega shattered his personal record in the open section of the 5,000 meters, finishing 14th in the 62-man field with a time of 14:13.85 in his second race of the outdoor season. A two-time all-conference runner in the event, Ortega clocked his fastest 5K time since his sophomore season in 2002. Already an NCAA provisional qualifier in the 10,000, the Taos native earned a berth in the Midwest Regional Championships for the first time in his career.
Later in the evening, Kiptoo-Biwott ran a time of 3:47.37 to finish 26th overall in the Olympic Development section of the 1,500. A regional championship qualifier already in the 5,000, the Albuquerque La Cueva High School product secured his place in a second event in late May in Oklahoma.
On the women's side, sophomore Riann Lucy turned in the finest 800-meter performance of her young career, placing 13th in the Olympic Development section with a personal record time of 2:10.36. Lucy finished three seconds faster than her previous best and just missed the NCAA regional qualifying standard by 0.56 seconds.
Freshman Whitney Johnson wraps up the Lobos' stay at the Mt. SAC Relays with her pole vault competition today at noon. The rest of the New Mexico men and women, however, will be competing this evening at the 2005 Mesa Track and Field Classic in Mesa, Ariz.
Complete results from the Mt. SAC Relays are available on the following website: