March 22, 2012
By Mike Mulcahy
After nine meets, 187 top-ten finishes, 17 All-Mountain West Athletes, 5 All-Americans and one national champion, the University of New Mexico track and field squad has closed the book on the 2012 indoor track and field season.
Granted, it may be difficult to stop looking back at yesterday's success, but these Lobos are already looking forward toward tomorrow's success.
And they are doing so for good reason.
The 2012 outdoor track and field campaign starts this weekend at the UTEP Springtime Invitational, and these New Mexico track and field athletes have the talent and skills to ride the momentum of the indoor season to challenge both the Mountain West and the nation for continued prominence.
Since Head Coach Joe Franklin's arrival in the summer of 2007, the Lobos have been able to cultivate a track and field program that has seen the team get better in both indoor and outdoor each successive year. From 2008 to 2011, New Mexico has registered 57 Indoor All-Mountain West Athletes, 76 Outdoor All-Mountain West Athletes and nine All-Americans.
Almost every year since 2008, the Lobos have improved on these accomplishments, as the numbers of All-Mountain West athletes have increased from 20 athletes in both 2008 seasons, 34 athletes in 2009, 32 athletes in 2010, and 45 athletes in 2011.
If this trend were to continue as predicted, the Lobos could come away with unprecedented success this season. One NCAA championship has already been hoisted by the cherry and silver of New Mexico in 2012. Another one is not unthinkable, especially with the athletes that call UNM home.
Headlining the Lobo men's charge into the national spotlight is the jumpers. Kendall Spencer, the national champion in the 2012 indoor long jump, is an up-and-coming talent who leads the Lobo jumpers including 2012 Indoor All-American triple jumper Floyd Ross and 2011 All-MW high jumper Django Lovett.
Also producing in the field events for the men are the pole vaulters. Logan Pflibsen and Robert Warensjo are the dynamic duo in the pole vault, but also have Chris Dodds, Sam Potter and Tyler Jackson flying high as well.
For the mid-distance races, Gabe Aragon, Sam Evans and JP Cordova are some of the New Mexico standouts, and University of North Carolina transfer Logan Rosenberg also projects to contribute as a Lobo.
A handful of Lobos are also dangerous in the sprints, including Beejay Lee, Thomas Trujillo, Lamaar Thomas and the aforementioned Spencer. The potential of a couple of these athletes is noteworthy, especially when considering Thomas is the second-best Lobo in the 100-meter dash and Lee is the school record-holder in the 60m.
In the hurdle events, 2010 All-MW athlete De'Vron Walker and 2011 All-MW athlete Chaz Lewis are both looking to move up higher in the record books in the 110m hurdles and 400m hurdles, respectively.
In the 3000m steeplechase, the only returning Lobo with experience is Sean Stam, and while there is not much depth in this event, Stam is just a few seconds off of a top-ten all-time mark at New Mexico.
The decathletes, two-time All-MW athlete Richard York and Sam Potter, are also important parts for the Lobos, as York is also a veritable multi-tool athlete and Potter has shown he too can compete after his performance in the 2012 indoor season.
Highlighting the New Mexico women team is the vaunted women's distance squad with six All-MW performances. 2012 Indoor All-Americans Josephine Moultrie and Sarah Waldron had excellent indoor campaigns for the Lobos, but the star-studded distance team also features Ruth Senior (school-record holder in the 5000m and 3000m steeplechase), Natalie Gray (school-record holder in the 10000m), Imogen Ainsworth, Lacey Oeding, Shawna Winnegar and Emma Reed.
Similarly stalwart, the women's pole vaulters also have tremendous skill, including the top school mark in both indoor and outdoor pole vault. Amber Menke, the indoor record holder, and Margo Tucker, the outdoor record holder, are the most decorated vaulters, but Julia Cook (tied seventh all-time outdoors), Nathalie Busk and Emily Heisler are all capable of superb marks.
In addition, the rest of the jumps are talented and, for the most part, young. Junior high jumper Marin Schweigert and junior long jumper/hurdler Precious Selmon are the most veteran athletes, but freshmen Yeshemabet Turner and Aasha Marler performed well during the indoor season and have a shot to contribute in outdoors.
In the hurdles, Selmon is the most experienced and accomplished athlete, and holds the Lobos' second-best time outdoors. Selmon, who missed most of the 2012 indoor season due to injury, is back to full-strength and ready for the outdoor campaign.
Also a potential candidate to make a solid impact is freshmen heptathlete Samantha Bowe, who is third-all time in the indoor pentathlon and was able to notch a bronze medal at the 2012 MW Indoor Championships.
The Lobos open the 2012 outdoor season with a jaunt down to El Paso, Texas, for the UTEP Springtime Invitational. This is first time in two years New Mexico has competed at this meet, as in 2010 the Lobos notched 14 top-ten finishes. For this go-around at the one-day meet, New Mexico will face off against mostly regional competition, including Texas Tech, New Mexico State, Oral Roberts, West Texas A&M, Eastern New Mexico, New Mexico Junior College, South Plains Community College, Western Texas College and UTEP.
The following week, the Lobos will go to the Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays hosted by University of Texas at Austin for a four-day competition.
To kick off April the Lobos both host the Don Kirby Collegiate Invitational on April 5-6 as well as travel to the Stanford Invitational April 6-7. Typically, the Lobos distance team makes the trip to Palo Alto, Calif., and the rest of the team will focus on the Don Kirby Invite here in Albuquerque.
A week later on April 14, New Mexico makes a return trip to El Paso for the UTEP Invitational (sans "Springtime"), for the third year since Franklin's arrival at UNM. The last time the Lobos made the trip in 2010, 14 athletes registered top-ten finishes.
The last two meets of the year before the conference meet, the Mt. SAC Relays (April 19-21) and the Brutus Hamilton Invitational (April 27-28), take New Mexico through April. The Lobos have not missed either of these meets in the past four years, and will again use the trips to the Californian cities of Walnut and Berkeley, respectively, as springboards for the 2012 Mountain West Outdoor Championships.
This year, the outdoor conference championship is hosted by the United States Air Force Academy May 9-12. Over the past two years, the Lobos have had success at the conference championships, with the men finishing second both years and the women placing fourth in 2010 and second in 2011. Up in Colorado Springs, New Mexico will again look to continue this pace and tally two more podium finishes.
The last two meets of the year, the NCAA First-Round Qualifying Meet in Austin, Texas, and the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Des Moines, Iowa, are only hopes and dreams at this point. While athletes and relay teams will need to prepare and put themselves in position to even compete at these meets, a precedent for success can be found just last year. In 2011, Franklin took a school-record 29 Lobos to the qualifying meet, where ten advanced to compete at the 2011 NCAA Outdoor Championships.
Like the last four year, the Lobos have the team, coaches, talent and aspirations to make strides in their development and take home the glory. It starts this weekend at the UTEP Springtime Invitational, where New Mexico will defend its successes from both the 2012 indoor and seasons.
The meet starts at 10 a.m. with the women's hammer throw and ends at 6:55 p.m. with the men's 4x400 relay. More information can be found at the UTEP\ athletics\ website, including schedules and heat sheets. Check back Saturday evening for a full recap of the Lobos first outdoor adventure, including complete results.