March 10, 2012
By Mike Mulcahy
NAMPA, Idaho - March is the time for championships.
And while most of those championships are battled for on the hardwood of basketball court, a are few fought for elsewhere, including the track and field at the Jackson Indoor Track in Nampa, Idaho.
The University of New Mexico's five competitors at the 2012 NCAA Division I Indoor Track and Field Championships battled for their championships Friday and Saturday, ending up with one national title a trio of top-ten finishers.
"I think there were some points of the meet that were stunning and some that were okay," New Mexico Head Coach Joe Franklin said. "Going into a championship it's just an amazing experience and there were some very positive things that came out."
Kendall Spencer, a sophomore from San Mateo, Calif., was one of those positive things, as he was crowned national champion in the men's long jump with a school- and Mountain West-record 26-foot, 3.5-inch mark.
"It feels good," Spencer said on Friday after his win. "It's really great I got to be out here."
Spencer out-leapt the rest of the field, including the top three seeds in Damar Forbes of LSU, Marquise Goodwin of Texas and Marquis Dendy of Florida. The gold-medal finish earned the Lobos ten team points.
"To have a performance like that and improve as much as he has the last couple of meet has been quite remarkable," Franklin said. "Kendall's done a great job competing. It's an amazing accomplishment for Kendall and the University of New Mexico."
With this victory, New Mexico has posted its third national championship in the past four years as former Lobo Lee Emanuel notched back-to-back titles in the mile in 2009 and 2010. The last Lobo victory in the long jump came back in 1965 when Clarence Robinson registered a 25-10.5 mark at the 1965 NCAA Outdoor Championships.
The Lobos other jumper in Nampa, triple jumper Floyd Ross, also earned team points for the cherry and silver.
The Memphis, Tenn., product opened with nearly identical marks of 51-9.75 and 51-9.25, placing him sixth in his flight. After the running of the second flight, Ross fell to ninth, but was able to rally with a 51-10.5 jump on his last attempt to finish eighth for one team point.
"It feels great. I'm very happy," Ross said. "I had a good time out there and I did what I did."
"Floyd pulled one out," Franklin added.
Senior Ross Millington also made the trip in the 3,000-meter run, and finished 13th with an 8:08.73 time.
Together, the three men combined for 11 team points, which placed the Lobos 15th as a team, their highest finish since 2010's eighth-place finish behind Emanuel's title.
Waldron, despite having run 5000m races the past two weekends, was able to notch a strong 16:07.04 time to place eighth place.
"With the way the race unfolded, there was a big gap that happened and Sarah had to stay focused," Franklin said. "She had to be mentally tough, and she did that."
Her mark, good for the women's only team point, ended up as the fourth fastest time in New Mexico history.
Moultrie clocked a 4:49.56 time in the preliminary heat of the women's mile, which, although it was not enough to propel her to the finals, was the ninth faster time in Lobo history.
"Everybody learns from every experience and that's the goal," Franklin said. "To learn and to take something away from every national competition is how you get better. There are highs and lows in every competition and you learn and get better."
All-American selections will be announced no later than Monday. Spencer, Ross and Waldron are all but guaranteed First-Team honors, and Moultrie and Millington are slated to earn Second-Team honors.
The Lobos are back at it in two weeks with the first meet of the outdoor season, the UTEP Springtime Invitational on March 24 in El Paso, Texas.