Lobos To Sample MWC Competition This Weekend
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  02/07/2007
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Feb. 7, 2007

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The University of New Mexico will get a taste of Mountain West Conference competition this Friday and Saturday when it hosts the TCR Race Productions Invitational indoor track and field meet at the Albuquerque Convention Center. MWC rivals Air Force, BYU, San Diego State and UNLV will all be among the field, along with athletes from Arizona, Arizona State, Rice and New Mexico State. The TCR Invitational will be the Lobos' last meet before hosting the MWC Indoor Championships, Feb. 22-24, at the Convention Center.

Friday's events get underway at 6 p.m. and the competition on Saturday resumes at 10 a.m. Admission is free on both days.

The TCR Invitational will feature six athletes currently ranked among the top-12 in their event by Trackwire.com. Defending NCAA pentathlon champion Jacquelyn Johnson (Arizona State) will make her second trip to Albuquerque this year, scheduled to compete in the 400m, 60m hurdles, long jump and high jump during the two-day meet. Johnson is currently No. 1 in Trackwire's pentathlon power rankings.

The defending NCAA outdoor decathlon champ, Arizona's Jake Arnold, is also making a return trip to the Convention Center. Currently fifth in the heptathlon power rankings, Arnold is set to compete it a whopping six events this weekend (60m hurdles, 400m, 60m, pole vault, shot put, long jump).

BYU long jumper Mindy Neeley is also back in Albuquerque. Ranked fifth in the long jump, Neeley will also be competing in the 60m and 200m on the track. Arizona's Elizabeth Patterson (No. 11) will headline the women's high jump field, while teammate Shawn Best (No. 9) will be the favorite in the men's shot put. BYU's David Pendergrass, meanwhile, will compete in both the high jump, where he is ranked 11th, and the triple jump.


After a stunning debut season in 2006, the Albuquerque Convention Center has continued to feature some of college track and field's top performances this winter. Through four collegiate invitational meets this season, there have been 81 NCAA Division I provisional qualifying marks and 10 D-I automatic qualifying marks recorded. Twenty-three of those marks are currently ranked among the top-5 nationally.

The Convention Center earned a well-deserved reputation in `06 as the best new indoor track and field facility in America. Fourteen NCAA automatic qualifying marks and 108 provisional qualifying marks were recorded in the facility last winter, including two of the top marks in Division I. Texas' Trey Hardee led the way, setting a collegiate record of 6,208 points in the heptathlon during the Zia Classic Multis competition (Jan. 26-27). Six individuals and two relay teams that visited the Duke City went on to win gold medals at the NCAA Indoor Championship meet.


The following is a list of New Mexico athletes ranked among the top-5 in the Mountain West Conference in their respective events through the first month of the 2007 indoor season:

Men's 400m - No. 2 Jarrin Solomon (47.34)

Men's 3,000m - No. 1 Jeremy Johnson (8:09.94*)

Men's 5,000m - No. 1 Jeremy Johnson (14:26.94*), No. 2 Juan Ortega (14:40.31*)

Mens' 4x400m Relay - No. 1 UNM (T. Siemon, R. McCain, Ku. Henry, J. Solomon) (3:13.89)

Men's Distance Medley Relay - No. 2 UNM (B. Vallie, Ku. Henry, N. Argüelles, J. Johnson) (10:06.12*)

Men's High Jump - No. 3 Josh Cosio (6' 7")

Women's 200m - No. 3 Ariel Burr (24.55)

Women's 400m - No. 3 Ariel Burr (55.55)

Women's 4x400m Relay - No. 3 UNM (Burr, Perkins, Matison Zarrella) (3:51.41)

Women's Distance Medley Relay - No. 2 UNM (Brasher, Pritchard, Green, McCabe) (13:04.57*)

Women's High Jump - No. 1 Tiyana Peters (5' 8.75")

Women's Triple Jump - No. 3 Hagit Salamon (39' 10 1/4")

Women's Pentathlon - No. 3 Sandy Fortner (3,709),

* Indicates altitude adjusted time


Dennis Heimrich Invitational (Feb. 2-3)
New Mexico won seven events over the two-day meet, which featured visiting teams from Division II national power Adams State, Cal State L.A. and San Francisco State. The all-New Mexico foursome of Taylor Siemon (Albuquerque La Cueva HS), Randle McCain (Silver City), Kurt Henry (Albuquerque Cibola HS) and Jarrin Solomon (Albuquerque La Cueva HS) clocked the fastest 4x400m relay time in seventh-year head coach Matt Henry's tenure, finishing 0.26 seconds ahead of Adams State in 3:13.89.

Earlier, the women's 4x400 team of Ariel Burr (Carrizozo, N.M.), Kim Perkins (Clovis, N.M.), Kristan Matison (San Diego, Calif.) and Christina Zarrella (Rio Rancho, N.M.) clocked a season-best time of 3:51.41.

New Mexico swept the 400-meter dash as well with Solomon and Burr both cruising to easy victories in the event. Solomon continued his outstanding indoor season, clocking a time of 47.65, his second-fastest of the year, while Burr finished in 56.16.

UNM distance ironman Juan Ortega (Albuquerque Rio Grande HS) turned in another solid weekend, winning the 3,000 on Friday night with a season-best time of 8:24.12* and coming back to finish third (4:13.99*) in his first mile run of the season.

Sophomore Tiyana Peters (Flanders, N.J.) enjoyed her best night in the high jump on Friday, clearing an all-time best 5' 8 3/4" to win the event. Peters nearly put herself in NCAA Championship contention as she appeared to clear the provisional qualifying height of 5' 10" on her second attempt. Somehow, however, the bar worked itself off the standard as Peters sat up on the mat.

Dan DeHart Invitational (Jan. 26-27)
UNM continued its steady improvement with several strong performances during the Dan DeHart Invitational. Junior Ariel Burr and the men's 4x400 relay team provided two of the Saturday highlights for the Lobos. Burr sparked the New Mexico women to an eighth place finish (40 points) in the 16-team field with her fourth place finish in the 200-meter dash. The all-Mountain West Conference 400 runner clocked a personal best time of 24.55, one of the fastest in seventh-year head coach Matt Henry's tenure, in a rare drop to 200 meters. Burr defeated 38 other runners in the field of 42.

The men's team, meanwhile, got its best performance from the quartet of Taylor Siemon, Kurt Henry, Jarrin Solomon and Randle McCain in the 4x400-meter relay. The group clocked a season-best time of 3:15.67, defeating Arizona State, California and Kansas State en route to a third place finish overall. New Mexico finished seventh (47 points) out of 10 in the overall men's team standings.

On Friday, junior Juan Ortega ran a strong fourth in the men's 3,000 and senior Mark Lamb clocked the fastest 60-meter hurdles time of his career, recording a time of 8.29* in the prelims en route to a sixth place finish in Saturday's finals. The Cimmarron, N.M. native surpassed his previous best in the event by a stunning 0.19 seconds.

On the women's side, meanwhile, sophomore Tiyana Peters cleared 5' 7" in the high jump - good for a sixth place finish in one of the meet's most competitive fields. Freshman Alesha Walker narrowly missed a spot in the 60-meter dash finals, winning her heat, but finishing 11th overall with a season-best time of 7.77*.

Roger Cox Multis (Jan. 26)
Sophomore Sandy Fortner put together the best performance of her young career in the pentathlon, finishing sixth at the Roger Cox Multis with a career-high score of 3,706. Fortner turned in personal records in her first three events to surpass the NCAA provisional qualifying standard by six points. She destroyed her previous best in the pentathlon by over 300 points and became the first UNM woman to eclipse the NCAA provisional qualifying standard since current coach Keren Bentzur in 2003 (3,845 points).

A product of tiny Fort Sumner, N.M. (town population 1,008), Fortner opened with a personal record time of 9.08* in the 60-meter hurdles - 0.11 seconds faster than her top time a year ago. After clearing an indoor best of 5' 4" in the high jump, she gave herself a big boost with a third place finish in the shot put. Fortner's mark of 38' 6" was over two feet better than her previous best. A leap of 18' 1" inches gave her fifth the long jump and she wrapped up her career day with a time of 2:30.30* en route to a sixth place finish in the 800-meters.

Elsewhere for the Lobos, freshman Tiffeny Parker finished 13th (2,776) in her first career multi-event competition, while redshirt freshman Kelly Fortner, Sandy's twin sister, was 15th (1,159) in her pentathlon debut.

Modrall Sperling Lobo Invitational (Jan. 19-20)
University of New Mexico junior Jarrin Solomon blazed to a career best time of 47.34 and knocked off two nationally ranked runners en route to a sixth place finish in the men's 400 meters. Solomon surpassed his previous best in the event by an eye-popping 1.28 seconds and came within 0.31 seconds of his dad Michael Solomon's 19-year-old school record.

The Albuquerque La Cueva product finished second in his heat, but clocked a faster time than ninth-ranked Melville Rogers of LSU (7th, 47.37) and No. 12 J.T. Scheuerman of Baylor (8th, 47.39), who both ran in heat eight. Two-time Baylor All-American Reggie Witherspoon won the event with a time of 47.21, running in the ninth and final heat.

Elsewhere for the Lobos, junior Jeremy Johnson continued his stellar weekend. Less than 24 hours after knocking off two UTEP All-Americans during a second place finish in the 3,000 meters (personal record time of 8:09.94*), Johnson came back to win the 5,000-meter run with another personal record time of 14:26.94.

On the women's side, junior Ariel Burr turned a strong performance of her own in the 400 meters. The 5-4 Burr clocked a time of 55.55 in a come-from-behind victory in heat four, which was good for a fourth place finish overall in the field of 16.

New Mexico also received solid points on Saturday from junior Melanie Velarde, who won the women's 5,000 with a time of 19:09.70*, and sophomore Josh Cosio, who tied for fifth in the high jump with a leap of 6' 7".

The UNM women finished third out of six in the team standings with a two-day score of 88 points. The Lobo men, meanwhile, were fourth out of eight with a score of 84.5. No. 3 LSU won the women's title (174), while 13th-ranked Texas A&M came away with the men's crown.