Oct. 28, 2006
SALT LAKE CITY - Seniors Juan Ortega and Timmie Murphy both finished fourth to lead the University of New Mexico men and women, respectively, to a pair of strong performances this morning at the Mountain West Conference Cross Country Championships. The UNM women placed third (94 points), while the men were fourth with a score of 89, just one point shy of third place Colorado State. The start of the races were delayed 30 minutes due to frost on the Rose Park Golf Course.
Ortega, Murphy and junior Jeremy Johnson (fifth) all earned first team all-MWC honors, while junior Leslie Luna was a second team honoree (eighth). Albuquerque Cibola High School product Vanessa Ortiz earned Women's Freshman of the Year honors with an 18th place finish.
Murphy became the second UNM woman ever to earn first team all-conference honors twice in a career, joining Cynthia Herhahn who was an all-High Country Athletic Conference honoree in 1988 and '89, Murphy, who was third at the MWC meet a year ago, covered the 6,000-meter course in 21:74.4. The Farmington, N.M. native has led the Lobos in all four meets this fall.
Luna was one spot shy of first team honors for the second straight year, crossing the line in 21:39.4. Ortiz was the first freshman across the finish line, recording a time of 22:24.4, while junior Melanie Velarde was 31st (23:00.2). Junior Sheyenne Lewis capped the UNM scoring, finishing 37th with a time of 23:21.8.
On the men's side, Ortega turned in one of the best performances of his career, completing the 8,000-meter course in 24:42.3 to earn all-conference honors for the first time. The former Albuquerque Rio Grande standout had finished no higher than 23rd (2005) in his three previous MWC Championship appearances.
Ortega and Johnson teamed to give the men of New Mexico a pair of first team all-conference runners for the third time in the past five years. Johnson, who was making his first MWC Championship appearance since 2002, finished with a time of 24:48.5. The Albuquerque Manzano product transferred to Arizona after his freshman season at UNM, before returning to his hometown in 2005.
Junior Chris Bratton (39th - 26:37.0) and rookies Alex Willis (43rd - 27:00.3) and Brian Vallie (45th - 27:08.9) rounded out the UNM runners. Promising freshman Nick Arguelles, who was the team's No. 4 runner two weeks ago at the Pre-Nationals, did not compete due to illness.
BYU won both the men's and women's races for the eighth straight season.
New Mexico returns home on Nov. 11 when it hosts the elite NCAA Championships Mountain Regional at the UNM North Golf Course. The first race begins at 10 a.m.