Jan. 15, 2009
Lobo Track & Field
When/Where: Saturday, Convention Center
Start Times: Track, 11:40 a.m.; Field, 10 a.m. - rolling schedule
Who: Lobos, New Mexico State, San Francisco State, Adams State, Western State
Tickets: $5 at the door
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
When Lobo coach Joe Franklin looks over the 200 meters of fast track waiting for fast feet over at the Albuquerque Convention Center, his eyes gleam like a child looking at a special toy.
And that's kind of how Franklin looks at this indoor surface. It's a gift to his University of New Mexico athletes. It's a gift for the city of Albuquerque and also area track fans. It also might be a huge gift for the future.
The carrot dangling in front of Franklin's nose that he hopes to snatch for 2012? "The NCAA Indoor Championships," said Franklin. "That's the goal. We'll get through this indoor season and then we'll start working on the bid."
The path to that lofty goal began at UNM's first indoor meet. I was a small step. Impress the visitors to that meet. Then impress a few more visitors on Jan. 24 at the Lobo Cherry & Silver Indoor Invitational when several elite teams from across the nation attend.
Then wow more people at the Mountain West Conference Indoor Championships in 2010 and hope that Adams State gets the bid to hold the 2010 NCAA Division II Indoor Championship in the Convention Center and does a great job with that event.
It probably won't be difficult to remind people of the quality of UNM's track. The Lobos welcomed 31 top-25 men's and women's teams to Albuquerque from 2006-07.
But there are a lot of steps. "I think it could happen and should happen," said Franklin. "It would be a great economic boost for Albuquerque and in my opinion there is no better setup in the country than Albuquerque.
"We have hotels in walking distance. We have the Convention Center with a world-class track. You can stay a few blocks from the track and never have to go anywhere else. The airport is only a few minutes away. It's a perfect setup."
That perfect setup is in 2012 or maybe 2013. For now, Franklin has a perfect indoor setup for his Lobos in 2009. They don't have to be a pack of gypsies.
"The biggest thing right now is our kids don't have to travel," said Franklin. "The best teams in the country will be coming here. Our kids can show up an hour-and-a-half before their event and they haven't been sitting on a bus for five hours."
The Lobos had an indoor track from 2006 to 2007, but lost it in 2008 when a national bowling event took the Lobos' spot in the Convention Center. The Lobos will hold four meets this indoor season: Saturday, Jan. 24, Jan. 30-31 and Feb. 7. There also will be All-Comer Meets held on those weekends.
Franklin said he understands losing the indoor season to a huge bowling event in 2008, but regrets the indoor season taking a step back.
"There is an unbelievable history of indoor track and field in Albuquerque dating back to the Tingley Coliseum," he said. "We owe it to our kids to give them a chance to run at home, but we also owe it to the city to continue the rich history of track here."
The track at the Convention Center also is kind of Franklin's baby. He has nursed the track's setup this year from Day One. "It's been a labor of love," he said.
That labor of love began with two days of hauling the track out of storage, five days of setup, and one day to put some shine on the finished product. Oh, yeah, and Franklin said he spent about eight hours figuring out how to puzzle all the track's pieces together.
Franklin said the problem was the numbering system used on the pieces, well, didn't make a whole lot of sense. "It wasn't sequential," said Franklin. "We had to figure out how they numbered the sections."
This wasn't a small puzzle to figure out. It took two transportation days to lug the track to the Convention Center: 12 flat-bed loads on 52-foot trucks.
"When we got done, we set there with our fingers crossed that it would be 200 meters," said Franklin. "You can be long, but you can't be short."
Since there were no spare pieces lying around, Franklin was pretty confident about the length. Still, the NCAA requires that the track is measured and certified. "It was 200 meters," Franklin said with a smile. That means all times on the track with be NCAA legal.
Franklin says he likes the team he takes indoors this season. "It's a very solid team," he said.
"We have a medley relay team that is at an elite level," said Franklin. "It could be unbelievable. Our kids are excited about this season. They are pumped."
Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former Associate Sports Editor and sports columnist for The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Previous articles are available at The Richard Stevens Corner