National Championship Berths At Stake For Six Lobos This Weekend
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  03/02/2005
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

March 2, 2005

UPDATE -- Some of New Mexico track and field's finest will get one final opportunity to earn a spot in the 2005 NCAA Indoor Championship field this weekend when they travel to South Bend, Ind. for the Alex Wilson Invitational. Seniors Amanda Barnes, Cameron Clarke, Matt Gonzales and Ben Ortega, junior Derek Mackel and true freshman Whitney Johnson will all take part in the last chance meet, March 4-5, before the NCAA Indoor Championship selections are announced on Monday, March 7.

The Alex Wilson Invitational gets underway on Friday night in the Loftus Indoor Complex on the Notre Dame campus and continues on Saturday morning. Complete meet results and information can be found on the University of Notre Dame official athletic department website: www.und.com

The NCAA selection process has been an inexact science over the years with anywhere from 14-21 athletes being selected in any one event. Generally though, no more than 17 competitors make the cut for nationals.

Mackel appears to have the best chance of qualifying as he enters the meet ranked 15th in the country. The Albuquerque Sandia High School product cleared a career best 17-05.50 in a third place finish at last week's Mountain West Conference championships, but may need to add another inch to his PR to secure his spot in the national championship field.

Fellow vaulter Whitney Johnson, meanwhile, is ranked 28th in the country after notching her career best of 13-00.25 in a similar third place performance at the MWC Championships. Johnson will likely need to raise the bar four inches to solidify her chances.

Currently ranked 15th in the men's pole vault, indoor junior Derek Mackel will look to secure his spot in the NCAA Championship field.

The men's 5,000-meters will be an interesting race as both Ortega and Gonzales will make one final run at an indoor championships berth. Ortega, the 2005 MWC Champion in the event, clocked a career-best altitude adjusted time of 14:08.70 a week ago in Colorado Springs which improved his national ranking to 32nd. Gonzales, meanwhile, will run the indoor 5K for the first time in his career after placing sixth in the event outdoors at the 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials. He cruised to victory in the 3,000 last weekend in his season debut at the MWC Indoor Championships, running an altitude adjusted time of 8:11.96. Both men will be looking to run under 13:55 on Friday night to put themselves in contention.

Elsewhere on the track, unranked Cameron Clarke will try to shave four seconds off his personal record in the 800 to get on the qualifying bubble. The MWC runner-up in the event last weekend, Clarke will probably need to finish around 1:48.50 to get on the NCAA map. In the field events, meanwhile, Amanda Barnes will double in the shot put and weight throw as she wraps up her indoor career. An all-MWC honoree in both events this year, Barnes enters the meet ranked 44th in the weight throw (60-10.75) and owns an indoor career-best of 49-03.50 in the shot put. In order to get on the qualifying bubble, she will likely need to target marks of 65 and 52 feet, respectively, in the two events this weekend.

Pole vaulter Bridgid Isworth was the last Lobo to qualify for the NCAA Indoor Championships in 2003, while Chip Smith was last representative for the UNM men, competing in the 3,000 in 1991. The 2005 national indoor championship meet will be held at the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville, Ark., March 10-12.

(all times Mountain)

Friday, March 4

4 p.m. - Women's Pole Vault (Whitney Johnson)

5 p.m. - Women's Weight Throw (Amanda Barnes)

5:20 p.m. - Men's 5,000 meters (Matt Gonzales, Ben Ortega)

Saturday, March 5

9 a.m. - Women's Shot Put (Amanda Barnes)

10 a.m. - Men's Pole Vault (Derek Mackel)

12:25 p.m. - Men's 800 meters (Cameron Clarke)