STEVENS: Lobo Women Hope To Deliver One-Two Punch At MWC Championships
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  10/30/2008
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Oct. 30, 2008

Lobo Cross Country
What: Mountain West Conference Championships
When: 11 a.m. Mountain (women), noon (men), Saturday
Where: Mission Bay Park, San Diego
Quick fact: The UNM women have never won a league title

By Richard Stevens
Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

When it comes to winning cross country titles, history tells the Lobo women exactly where to stand when it comes to handing out the big trophy: behind someone else.

The University of New Mexico Lobos always have been bridesmaids, or worse. The Lobos have not once, in the history of the program, won a conference title. The Lobos have caught the bouquet three times, finishing second; once in the Mountain West Conference (2005) and twice in the High Country Athletic Conference (1983, '84).

It's ironic that the Lobos might grab their first league crown this weekend behind one runner, who has been in the U.S. for less than three months, and another runner, who was almost running at Butler this season.

The two runners -- Nicky Archer of Cheshire, England and Michelle Corrigan of Green Bay, Wisc., -- are well aware of UNM's drought at the conference level.

"Well, we were trying not to (think about it)," said Archer. "But people do mention it."

Said Corrigan: "I know that BYU is the favorite going in. But I think because we have never won one, there really isn't any pressure. It's not like we're expected to win, but, for sure, it would be exciting to win and maybe start something. It would be great to win and then try to keep that up."

The 2008 Mountain West Championships will be held Saturday in San Diego at the Mission Bay Park. The women run a 6,000-meter course (3.7 miles) at 11 a.m. and the men run an 8,000-meter path (5 miles) at noon. The Lobos women carry a No. 23 ranking into their meet followed by No. 28 BYU. The No. 11-ranked Cougars are favored on the men's side, looking for a fifth straight MWC title.

Archer and Corrigan have been the two anchors on the UNM women's team all season. Archer owns the top time in the MWC at 6,000 meters and Corrigan has the league's No. 2 time. A one-two finish by these talented Lobos is exactly what UNM needs to beat the Cougars to the 2008 title.

The two Lobos might push each other in San Diego, but that's nothing new. They push each other all the time in practice.

"(Nicky) definitely has helped me a lot," said Corrigan, in her second season at UNM after transferring from Mississippi State. "But this year our whole team is deeper and we all push each other."

Two years ago, Corrigan appeared destined to jump from Mississippi State to Butler following UNM coach Joe Franklin, who then took a detour and came to UNM.

"It just wasn't working out for me (at MSU). I wasn't happy there," said Corrigan, a UNM senior. "I got kind of burnt out at Mississippi State and wasn't even sure if I wanted to keep running. Then (Franklin) told me he was coming here and I knew Albuquerque is a great place to run with endless trails and altitude. I really got excited to give running one more shot."

Archer also wanted to give running one more shot, without the additional pressure of working. She finished her degree at Birmingham and was trying to run as a working girl.

"I found out that working and running wasn't the best combination," said Archer. "When Joe said, 'What do you think about coming to New Mexico?', I said, 'Done'." I get to study a bit, run a bit and I don't have to work."

The move to America also allowed Archer to shorten her runs. In England, she had been running marathons and half marathons.

"I'm a bit of a strange case because I've dropped down in distances," said Archer. "I've done it the opposite way to most people. I'm kind of young to be running marathons and my coach back home told me, 'You've run three marathons before you're 21, that's probably three to many.'

"I also wanted to get faster on the short stuff before I go back to the longer runs."

Archer said one problem she had in going from marathons to 6,000-meters is the race was getting over too soon. "It was so quick," she said. "At first, I didn't like it, but I'm beginning to like it. So far, so good. I just have to start running well."

The women's squad in San Diego includes Archer, Corrigan, Carolyn Boosey, Lacey Oeding, Leslie Luna, Ashley Gibson, Emma Reed and Polina Ermoshina. The Lobo men will run with Jacob Kirwa, David Bishop, Rory Fraser, Brock Hagerman, Lee Emanuel, Mat Ashton, Alex Willis, Jason Petty and Patrick Ortiz.

The Lobo men won five WAC titles, but have never won a MWC cross country title. They registered their best MWC finish last season with a second-place run behind BYU. The Lobo women finished third last year behind Corrigan's fifth-place finish. Only one UNM woman runner, Carole Roybal, has ever won a league title (1986). Corrigan was 15 seconds behind last year's winner and was first team All-MWC in 2007.

Corrigan said her motivation Saturday isn't so much to beat BYU, but to simply win.

"We're competitive ( in cross country) and I think every sport has a rival," she said. "But maybe since I've only been a Lobo for a short time, I don't feel any real anger toward (BYU). But I know I want to win."

Editor's note: Richard Stevens is a former Associate Sports Editor and sports columnist for The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at rstevens50@comcast.net. Previous articles are available at The Richard Stevens Corner