Lobos Return To Colorado Springs For MWC Indoor Championship Meet
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  02/23/2005
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Feb. 23, 2005

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The University of New Mexico men's and women's track teams return to Colorado Springs, Colo. this weekend for the 2005 Mountain West Conference Championships. Competition gets underway at 11 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 24, with the women's pentathlon and first day of the men's heptathlon. The action continues with day two of the heptathlon, along with preliminary and finals competition on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 25 and 26.

The Air Force Academy will host the championships for the sixth straight year at Cadet Field House, but New Mexico officials are confident that the meet could see a change of venue in 2006. With the recent construction of the indoor track facility at the Albuquerque Convention Center, New Mexico now boasts the only other NCAA regulation size indoor track in the MWC. UNM head coach Matt Henry and his staff have already put in a bid to host next year's indoor championships and are confident that the proposal will be accepted by the league head coaches during meetings this week in Colorado Springs.

No. 21 BYU has won four of the five men's MWC indoor titles, but 18th-ranked Colorado State, the 2002 indoor champs, has the talent to reclaim the conference crown. The home team, Air Force, could also be a threat in the race for the top spot. Last year, the three teams finished within seven points of each other with BYU holding off CSU 169.5-164. Wyoming and New Mexico have lacked the depth to challenge for the MWC indoor title over the past three years, but both have plenty of all-conference caliber athletes who will be factors this weekend.

The BYU women have rarely been challenged at the indoor championships, winning each of the last five league crowns. This year, the No. 15 Cougars are the only ranked women's team in the conference and will be the favorites once again this weekend. San Diego State and Colorado State have finished in the top-three each of the past two seasons, followed by Wyoming and Utah who have been among the top-five since 2002. New Mexico, UNLV and Air Force, meanwhile, will all be looking to climb up the ranks and challenge for top-five standings.

Complete information and results from 2005 MWC Indoor Championships will be available at the official athletic department website of the Mountain West Conference:

2005 Mountain West Conference Indoor Track & Field Championships Central

Although in remains a traditional outdoor-oriented program, New Mexico has become more of an indoor threat each year under fifth-year head coach Matt Henry and his staff. The UNM women have scored at least 49 points three of Henry's first four seasons after surpassing the 49-point mark just once in the previous 10 years. In Henry's first year, the women scored a program-best 57 points and matched their best all-time finish by taking fourth at the 2001 MWC Championships. Five of the women's seven all-time indoor conference event titles have come in the Henry era as well, including a program-best three victories in 2003.

The Lobo men, meanwhile, have been steadily returning to the high levels of performance they were accustomed to throughout the 1970s and `80s. New Mexico has averaged 49 points, under Henry, in its last four MWC indoor meets after scoring an average of just 12 points per meet from 1992-2000. Last year, UNM's Mark Johnson also ended a 13-year drought by becoming the first men's indoor conference champion since 1991. Johnson's win in the heptathlon was the team's 51st event title since 1970. Henry himself helped the Lobos capture back-to-back Western Athletic Conference 2-mile relay titles and a mile relay crown from 1972-74.



Year MWC Finish MWC Titles All-MWC Honors
2001 5th (29 pts.) --- 1
2002 5th (53 pts.) --- 3
2003 5th (49 pts.) --- 3
2004 5th (66 pts.) 1 4
Total 1 11


Year MWC Finish MWC Titles All-MWC Honors
2001 4th (57 pts.) 1 4
2002 7th (51 pts.) 1 5
2003 6th (49.5 pts.) 3 4
2004 6th (23 pts.) 0 2
Total 5 15

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- The University of New Mexico men's team earned all-conference honors in four events en route to its best indoor conference meet score in 14 years at the 2004 Mountain West Conference Championships. New Mexico finished fifth for the fourth straight year, but its 66 points were the most since tallying 118 in a second place finish at the 1990 Western Athletic Conference Championships. The young UNM women's team finished sixth with 23 points.

Senior Mark Johnson ended a 13-year drought by becoming the first member of the UNM men's team since 1991 to capture an indoor conference title with his stirring victory in the inaugural heptathlon competition. Johnson, who entered day two of the competition in seventh place, won two of his final three events to earn his second career conference title.

The 2002 MWC decathlon champion won the 60m hurdles, then soared a career-best 16-00.75, over a foot higher than his nearest competitor, to take the pole vault. Holding a slim 78-point lead entering the final event of the day, the 1,000-meter run, Johnson did not falter, finishing second to tally an NCAA provisional qualifying score of 5,263. A two-time all-MWC honoree in the indoor pentathlon (replaced by the men's heptathlon in 2004), Johnson was also the first UNM man to win an indoor multi-event title.

Senior Chris Garofola and junior Matt Gonzales paced the Lobo men on the third and final day of the meet, scoring 12 points apiece. Garofola earned individual all-MWC honors for the first time in his career with a third place finish in the 200. The Fort Washington, Pa. native clocked a personal-best time of 21.54, just off the NCAA provisional standard. Garofola also finished sixth in both the 60 (6.99*) and 60-meter hurdles (8.21*), and helped the UNM mile relay team place fourth (3:19.75) to conclude a tremendous weekend of competition.

Gonzales, meanwhile, just missed his first conference title for the second straight year. After finishing less than two seconds out of first in the 3,000 last winter, Gonzales was edged by 0.07 seconds in the mile by BYU standout Nathan Robison on Saturday afternoon. The duo came down the final stretch with Robison, a 2003 NCAA indoor finalist in the event, holding a slight lead. The 5-5 Gonzales, however surged ahead, but was unable to lean past the 6-1 Robison at the tape. Gonzales crossed the line in an altitude-adjusted time of 4:04.88, just under the NCAA provisional qualifying standard. The Santa Fe native also placed fifth in the 3,000 with an altitude adjusted time of 8:22.39, just 0.49 seconds ahead of teammate Nick Martinez (6th).

Junior Amanda Barnes paced the women's team with an all-conference performance in the shot put. Barnes placed a career-best third and increased her indoor record in the event with a toss of 49-03.50. The 2003 outdoor shot put champion, Barnes had not finished higher than sixth in two previous MWC indoor meets.

In other finals competition, seniors Jason Barkemeyer and Jordan Parker each turned in career best performances to combine for five points in the shot put. Barkemeyer finished fifth with a personal best mark of 56-09.25, while Parker was eighth with a top toss of 54-01.00. Senior Mark Johnson led a 6-7-8 finish for the Lobos in the pole vault with a career best clearance of 16-09.25. Johnson finished the three-day meet with a team-high 13 points, including his heptathlon conference title on day two.

On the second day of competition, both the UNM men's and women's distance medley relay teams turned in record setting performances to earn all-MWC honors. The women's foursome of Amanda Swann, Nicole Hansen-Solum, Riann Lucy and Jacquelyne Gallegos nearly pulled off the upset of the year, finishing second to BYU's nationally-ranked squad by 0.60 seconds. Gallegos took the baton with New Mexico in fourth place, but eventually surged ahead of the stunned field. However, Cougar anchor Kathryn Andersen, one of the nation's premier distance runners, rallied to edge Gallegos at the line. The Lobo women still managed to smash their school record, set in the 2004 season-opener, with an altitude-adjusted time of 12:07.34.

On the men's side meanwhile, junior Matt Gonzales slipped by Colorado State sophomore Matt Cianciuli down the final stretch to held teammates Nick Martinez, RaShawn Jackson and Cameron Clarke to a second place finish. Like the women, the foursome shattered the previous school record by nearly 14 seconds, crossing the line in an altitude-adjusted time of 9:57.38.

In other finals action, junior Ben Ortega erased the six-year old UNM record in the 5,000, finishing fourth with an altitude-adjusted time of 14:32.52. Junior Jamie Fishencord, meanwhile, reclaimed her school record in the weight throw and finished a career-best eighth with a mark of 53-11.75.

The Mountain West Conference Indoor Championships will likely be the final chance for most of the Lobos to reach qualifying standards to get into the NCAA Championship meet in Fayetteville, Ark. Senior Ben Ortega and indoor junior Derek Mackel have attained the provisional qualifying marks, but will likely need to improve their results this weekend to gain a berth in the national championship field.

Ortega's top 5,000-meter time of 14:12.75 is currently ranked 32nd in the nation and he will likely need to run 14 minutes or faster to secure a spot at nationals. Mackel, meanwhile, is tied for 23rd with a top pole vault mark of 17-01.00 and will need to at least another three inches to his PR to guarantee a trip to Arkansas.

Several other Lobos could make a run at a national qualifying standard this weekend, including: senior Matt Gonzlaes (3,000m), freshman Shadrack Kiptoo-Biwott (mile), junior Jacquelyne Gallegos (3,000m/5,000m), senior Amanda Barnes (shot put), senior Bridgid Isworth (pole vault) and freshman Whitney Johnson (pole vault). Head coach Matt Henry has also said that he might consider bringing a potential qualifier who is on the qualifying bubble to a last chance meet following the conference championships.