Feb. 27, 2004
COLORADO STATE, Colo. - Senior Mark Johnson ended a 13-year drought by becoming the first member of the University of New Mexico men's team since 1991 to capture an indoor conference title with his stirring heptathlon victory this afternoon at the Mountain West Conference Championships. Johnson, who entered the day in seventh place, won two of his final three events to earn his second conference title. The New Mexico men finished day two in a fifth place (23 points), while the women were sixth (11 points).
The 2002 MWC decathlon champion clocked a season-best time of 8.53 to win the 60-meter hurdles, then soared a career-best 16-00.75, over a foot higher than his nearest competitor, to take the pole vault. Johnson's performance in the pole vault turned out to be critical as day one leader Devin Scoresby of BYU failed to clear a height in the event. Unfortunately, UNM sophomore Dan Feltman, who entered the day in third place, also failed to score in the event and dropped to 13th.
Holding a slim 78-point lead over Air Force senior Nick Herald entering the final event of the day, the 1,000-meter run, Johnson did not falter. The Fontana, Wisc. native finished less than a second behind Herald, a strong distance runner, to outscore the Falcon standout 5,263-5,187. Johnson's indoor victory is the first for New Mexico since Chip Smith took the 3,000 meters at the 1991 Western Athletic Conference Championships.
"This was definitely the highlight of the day," said UNM head coach Matt Henry. "Mark was pretty disappointed with his performance yesterday, but he's a true competitor. He really proved himself out there today."
In final event competition this afternoon, both the UNM men's and women's distance medley relay times 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 finished fourth in the 5,000 meters with a season-best altitude-adjusted time of 14:32.52. On the women's side, junior Jamie Fishencord reclaimed her school record in the weight throw and finished a career-best eighth with a mark of 53-11.75, while sophomore Timmie Murphy clocked an altitude-adjusted time of 17:53.74 to score (8th) in the 5,000.
Senior Chris Garofola led a strong Lobo effort in the preliminary events, qualifying for the finals in the 60, 200 and 60-meter hurdles. Garofola recorded the second-fastest qualifying times in the 60 and 200, and improved his school record in the 60-meter hurdles with a preliminary altitude-adjusted time of 8.13. Gonzales and freshman Mike Smiel represented the UNM distance crew well, qualifying for the mile and 800-meter runs, respectively. Gonzales clocked a career-best adjusted time of 4:07.69 to finish second in the prelims, while Smiel's top time of 1:55.28 was good for ninth. On the women's side, senior Amanda Swann was the final qualifier in the mile, while freshman Riann Lucy cruised into the 800 finals with a time of 2:19.36.
The BYU women have a strong lead of the pack after two days, while Colorado State and Air Force are seperated by less than a point in the men's standings. Finals competition resumes on Saturday morning and concludes around 4 p.m.