STEVENS: Lee Emanuel Looking To Add Outdoor Title At 1,500 Meters
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  02/11/2009
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Updated June 7, 2010

Lee Emanuel
Year: Senior
Born: Jan. 24, 1985
Hometown: Hastings, England
Parents: Peter & Gill Emanuel

By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

To understand a mild peculiarity about Lobo Lee Emanuel, to fully appreciate the best Lobo miler ever, it's necessary to go back to one of his first moments as a Lobo.

It's a humbling moment. A moment that brings a thin, sheepish smile to the face of the Lobo runner, who has twice won NCAA Indoor titles and who is at the NCAA finals this week looking to pick up an outdoor crown.

The day in question is the race Emanuel didn't run as a Lobo. Well, to be more accurate, he ran for a while and then he walked for a while, then ran, then walked, and so on. Really, it was a pivotal day for Emanuel. It gave him two goals as a Lobo. 1- Run a sub four-minute mile. 2- Never get caught walking on a cross country trek again.

"I think Joe (Lobo coach Joe Franklin) might have been thinking, `What have I got here?'" said Emanuel. "I didn't really want to run cross country, but that was part of the deal."

Actually, Franklin knew exactly what he had in Emanuel when he talked the runner into coming over from England to be a Lobo. Franklin had a kid capable of becoming the best UNM miler ever. Which Emanuel is.

He became the first Lobo to break the four-minute mile when he burned out his 3:57.91 indoors at the Notre Dame Invitational in February of 2009. But the deal with Franklin to become a Lobo also included becoming a member of the UNM cross country team.

One of Franklin's first glimpses of his prize Brit recruit came in a cross country meet when, well, Emanuel was dragging his rear while bringing up the rear.

"It was 90 degrees and I had been here (UNM) at altitude for about a week and I hadn't really been training yet," said Emanuel. "It was terrible. I didn't walk the whole way. It was walk a bit, jog a bit, have a walk. I wasn't something I was proud of."

Maybe not, but it does bring to light a small peculiarity about Emanuel. He doesn't like to run long distances. He doesn't like the long bouts with hills and mesa and the hot, burning New Mexico sun. He is a sprinter at heart. His feet yearn for the hard track, not the soft sand. He is much more comfortable in Eugene, Ore., than he is churning around the paths at the UNM North Course.

"I don't like the long stuff much," he said. "I guess I'm not the most motivated trainer. We (UNM) do these 90-minute runs and I just hate it. I've been working on Joe for a long time to let me skip them, but I'm not getting anywhere. I'd rather be on the track.

"I like the guys and being part of the team (cross country) and I try as hard as I can (17th in 2008 NCAA regionals). But I don't enjoy the races much. I struggle to get around the course."

Of course, the long work is necessary to become a stud miler, just like the speed work is necessary. Emanuel has thrived in the Albuquerque altitude and under the demands of Franklin.

Emanuel, who won the 2010 MWC title at 1,500 meters, is making his third straight trip to the NCAA Championships. No Lobo distance runner has ever made three trips to the outdoor finals. He also is looking to become UNM's first two-time All-American at 1,500 meters.

The UNM senior appears to be a lock for All-America status. He has the No. 2 time in the nation at 3:38.79. This national final should be sensational.

He has come a long way from his 2009 goal of running a 3:52 mile.

Emanuel's voyage from Hastings, England to Albuquerque almost didn't happen. He walked away from running for about three years when he was 18-years-old. Then he saw that a former rival of his from England was doing well in an American college. He put the track shoes back on.

"I knew I had a bit of a talent for it (running)," said Emanuel. "I always wanted to see how far I could go and when I turned 21, it got to the point where I didn't have a choice but to get back into it. I was running out of time."

Emanuel ran some quality times and an American coach who had been keeping tabs on him --Franklin -- offered him a scholarship to run the mile and also cross country. "A bit of blackmail," Emanuel said of Franklin including the long-distance stuff.

"Joe always showed interest in me and I believed he was the type of coach who could make me better," said Emanuel. "I was on the verge of giving up. The system in England isn't as good as here and I needed to make a change, if I wanted to go to a higher level.

"New Mexico sounded good. I was sick of the cold. England is cold, windy, not a particularly nice place to run. I have gotten to the point where I can hardly run if it's cold. But on cold days here, you don't have a choice. Coach makes us run."

Yeah, that's kind of what coach Franklin does: run long, run short, run a sub four-minute mile.

Oh, and become a national champion, once, twice --- three times??? The answer to that question will be handed out this week in Oregon.