Dec. 14, 2005
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - The City of Albuquerque and the University of New Mexico are set to become one of the nation's premier destinations for indoor track and field competition this winter. The city will host eight meets in 2006, including six collegiate events, on its 2-year-old track inside the Albuquerque Convention Center. UNM head coach Matt Henry, a lifelong Albuquerquean and former Lobo All-American, said the ambitious indoor schedule is the best in program history.
"This is definitely the best schedule we've put together and we think it's probably the best group of collegiate indoor meets that's ever been scheduled here," Henry said. "A lot of us were young, but we remember when indoor track and field was big in Albuquerque and we know we have an opportunity to make it special again."
The list of teams visiting the Duke City this winter reads like a "Who's Who" list of NCAA track and field with Air Force, Arizona, Arizona State, BYU, California, Colorado State, Florida, Florida State, Houston, LSU, San Diego State, TCU, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, UNLV, USC, Utah, UTEP and Wyoming among the schools scheduled to compete at the Convention Center.
"We're excited about seeing these teams come through here," Henry said. "We know we're going to have to step it up a little bit, but our kids are really looking forward to competing against some of the best track and field athletes in the country at home in front of our crowd."
The season gets underway on Jan. 14 with the Mark Shumate Open, which will be the first NCAA sanctioned indoor meet in Albuquerque since the 1987 Western Athletic Conference Championships were held in Tingley Coliseum. The Schumate Open will be the first three all-comer meets held at the Convention Center in `06, all of which will be open to any competitor, regardless of age or ability. All-comer meets will also be held on Jan. 22 and Feb. 12. The First to the Finish High School Invitational will also take place at the Convention Center on Feb. 18.
On Jan. 21 UNM will host what should be one of the best early-season meets in the country, the Modrall Sperling Lobo Invitational. Arizona, BYU, Cal, Colorado State, Florida State, LSU Texas A&M, Rice, Portland State, USC and UTEP will join New Mexico to create a world-class field in the first collegiate-only meet at the Convention Center. Eight of the 12 had either their men's or women's teams finish among the top-25 at the NCAA Indoor or Outdoor Championships a year ago. Seven returning individual national champions and the LSU men's champion 4x400-meter relay team are scheduled to be among the field.
Twelve teams visit Albuquerque the next week for the three-day University of New Mexico Invitational. The meet opens with two days of pentathlon and heptathlon competition, Jan. 26-27, followed by the main events on Jan. 28. Arizona State, Florida, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech, Long Beach State, New Mexico State, Oral Roberts and Division II powers Adams State and Western State will be among the field.
Following their lone road trip of the indoor season to Nebraska, the Lobos return home on Feb. 11 to host six teams, including the Conference USA champion Houston Cougars and D-II national champion Abilene Christian, in the Albuquerque Invitational.
Two weeks later, the Convention Center will be the site of 2006 Mountain West Conference Indoor Track & Field Championships (Feb. 23-25), which moves to the Duke City after six years at the Air Force Academy's Cadet Field House in Colorado Springs, Colo. Air Force also hosted the Western Athletic Conference Indoor Championships for 12 straight years before the MWC was formed. New Mexico hosted the WAC Indoor Championship meet at Tingley Coliseum six times between 1974-87.
The Albuquerque Convention Center's track and field facility has rapidly gained a reputation as one of the premier venues in the nation and is nearly identical to the track used by the University of Arkansas at the Randal Tyson Track Center, which has been the site of every NCAA Championship meet since 2000.
The facility features a 200-meter, 60-degree banked oval that has 60-meter straightaways running the entire length of the infield. It also includes two jumping runways and pits, and areas for shot put, weight throw , pole vault and high jump events. The surface is red and white Mondo.
Good timing, proactive city leaders and an irresistible sale all contributed to the return of indoor track and field to the Albuquerque after an 18-year absence. During the spring of 2004 the city learned of a $1 million unused and undamaged indoor track sitting in storage in Canada that could be purchased for a mere $500,000. The state-of-the-art Mondo track had originally been ordered, then later declined, for use in the Los Angeles Staples Center arena. The track finally found a home inside the Convention Center in downtown Albuquerque and made its debut on Jan. 15, 2005 for the inaugural Albuquerque All-Comers meet.
In the 1960s and '70s,Albuquerque was one of the nation's elite indoor track and field locations, drawing top professional and collegiate talent to compete in front of large crowds at Tingley Coliseum. The 1966 AAU Indoor Nationals (now known as the USA Indoor Track & Field Championships) drew a two-day total of nearly 20,000 fans and was featured on the March 14 cover of Sports Illustrated. Albuquerque officials were able to lure the meet away from its regular home at Madison Square Garden in New York City that year.
FEATURED INDOOR OPPONENTS
Abilene Christian (Feb.11)
2005 NCAA Division II men's indoor and outdoor champions...men's team has won the last four Division II indoor and outdoor titles and 27 national titles overall...women's team has won 22 Division II national titles (13 indoor, 8 outdoor).
Adams State (Jan. 28 & Feb. 11)
Men 2nd, Women 5th at NCAA Division II Indoor Championship meet...return Division II national 800-meter champion, junior Nick Lara.
Arizona (Jan. 21)
Both men's & women's teams nationally ranked during the 2005 season...men finished 10th at 2005 NCAA Indoor Championships and 9th at outoor championships
BYU (Jan. 21, Feb. 11, Feb. 23-25)
Women 6th and men 15th at 2005 NCAA Indoor Championships...men 4th and women 10th at NCAA Outdoor Championships...return the NCAA outdoor pole vault national champion, senior Robison Pratt...men have won all six Mountain West Conference outdoor championship and five indoor crowns...women have won five outdoor titles and all six indoors.
Colorado State (Jan. 21, Feb. 23-25)
Women 26th, Men 34th at 2005 NCAA Indoor Championships...women 22nd, Men 67th at 2005 NCAA Outdoor Championships
Florida (women only - Jan. 28)
Runners-up at the 2005 NCAA Indoor Championships...10th at the national meet outdoors...return the NCAA indoor 400m champ, junior Tiandra Ponteen.
Florida State (Jan. 21)
Men were 8th at 2005 NCAA Indoor Championships...men's team is the reigning ACC Outdoor & East Regional Champs, and placed 4th at NCAA Outdoor Championships...return the NCAA 100m national champion, sophomore Walter Dix.
Houston (Feb. 11)
Conference USA men's and women's indoor/outdoor champions...head coach Leroy Burrell - former Olympic gold medalist and world record holder in the 100.
LSU (Jan. 21)
Women 6th, Men 20th at 2005 NCAA Indoor Championships...women had won 3 straight national indoor titles prior to '05...Men 3rd, Women 24th at 2005 NCAA Outdoor Championships...men's 4x400m relay team is the NCAA outdoor champions.
Texas (men's multi-event athletes only - Jan. 26-27)
Return two indoor heptathlon and outdoor decathlon All-Americans in Senior Trey Hardee and junior Donovan Kilmartin...Hardee was the 2005 decathlon national champion and 3rd in the heptathlon...Kilmartin was the heptathlon runner-up and fourth in the decathlon.
Texas A&M (Jan. 21)
Men 29th, Women 47th at 2005 NCAA Outdoor Championships...return the men's NCAA outdoor long jump champion, senior Fabrice Lapierre
Texas Tech (Jan. 26-28)
Men won 2005 Big 12 outdoor title, finished 16th at NCAA Outdoor Championships and 26th at indoor nationals.
UTEP (Jan. 21)
Women 27th, Men 40th at 2005 NCAA Indoor Championships...Men 2005 WAC Indoor & Outdoor Champions and 12th at NCAA Outdoor Championships...return 3,000m steeplechase national champion, senior Mircea Bogdan.
USC (Jan. 21)
2005 NCAA West Regional men's champs...Men 6th, Women 7th at NCAA Outdoor Championships...Women 21st/Men 22nd at NCAA Indoors...return the men's indoor/outdoor high jump national champion, senior Jesse Williams, and women's 60m hurdles (indoor) & 100m hurdles (outdoor) national champion, senior Virginia Powell.
Western State (Jan. 28)
Men 6th, Women 11th at NCAA Division II Indoor Championships...Women 7th, Men 14th at Outdoor Championships...return men's D-II indoor mile champion, senior Oliver Bodor.
Wyoming (Feb. 23-25)
Women 18th at 2005 NCAA Outdoor Championships