COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – With the Mountain West at its best, the Lobos were better.
For the fifth straight year, the University of New Mexico men's and women's cross country teams swept the team titles at the Mountain West Cross Country Championships on Friday.
Behind stellar team efforts on both sides – including multiple top-10 finishers for both the men and women – the women claimed their sixth team championship in a row, while the men won their fifth straight team championship.
“It's fun to be that consistent, but the pressure mounts every year,” UNM head coach Joe Franklin said.
The conference, with four nationally ranked men's teams and two nationally ranked women's teams, looked to be at its strongest in its history.
Still, both the No. 9 women and the No. 9 men emerged victorious at Eisenhower Blue Course on the grounds of the Air Force Academy, as the women beat Boise State 31-60 and the men topped Air Force 32-51 in low-score-wins format.
“Our conference has gotten significantly better over the last three years, and in particular this year,” Franklin said. “When you have team that are all ranked in the top 25 – you have four men's teams – you know it's going to be a war.”
The New Mexico men were paced to their fifth title in a row by a strong team showing, led by four All-Mountain West performers.
2012 individual titlist Luke Caldwell claimed second overall over the eight-kilometer course, finishing in 24 minutes, 12.40 seconds. For the seventh time in his last eight meets, Caldwell led the Lobos, parlaying that into a First-Team All-MW plaudit.
Right behind were fellow first-team all-conference runners Adam Bitchell and Pat Zacharias, who placed third and fourth, respectively. Bitchell clocked in at 24:16.88, while Zacharias covered the course in 24:26.07. Sean Stam picked up second-team honors and scored for the Lobos, placing eighth with a time of 24:35.19.
Elmar Engholm rounded out the men's scorers, finishing 15th in 24:42.13.
“What's impressive is that all five were there,” Franklin said of the men's team spread.
The Lobos, who had to hold off No. 22 Colorado State, No. 28 Air Force and No. 20 Boise State, recorded five scorers in the top eight and all five scorers in the top 15.
Also placing for the men were Ross Matheson (24th place, time of 24:58.09), Donovan Torres (30th, 25:18.06), Graham Thomas (43rd, 25:54.59) and Jake Shelley (46th, 26:02.59).
Overall, the men tallied 32 points, besting runner-up Colorado State and their total of 51 points. The men recorded their third-lowest point total during their title streak, and placed all five runners in the top 15 for the first time since 2010.
Air Force finished third on their home course, scoring 80 points. Boise State was fourth with 101 points, while Wyoming was fifth (106 points), Utah State sixth (130), Fresno State seventh (222) and San José State eighth (248).
Air Force's Isaiah Bragg won the individual title in 24:08.39.
The women also experienced some superlative success on Friday, as they seized half of the top-10 finishes. Despite only having three runners return to the conference meet from last year, New Mexico rolled out a veteran-like showing, as every Lobo finished in the top 30.
“From the team from last year, there were only three that ran on last year's championship team,” Franklin said, “but I knew they were fit.”
New Mexico was led by Sammy Silva over the women's six-kilometer race, as she claimed runner-up honors with a time of 21:12.10. After leading the women last month at the Notre Dame Invitational, Silva paced the women again and earned First-Team All-MW honors.
Also earning first-team honors were Charlotte Arter and Nicole Roberts. Arter registered a fourth-place mark of 21:30.95, while Roberts ran to seventh in 21:52.07.
Calli Thackery and Heleene Tambet rounded out the women's scorers, with Thackery (21:55.75) placing eighth and Tambet (22:01.28) finishing 10th. Both earned second-team all-conference honors for their work.
Tamara Armoush (13th, 22:11.33), Nicola Hood (16th, 22:19.73), Kirsten Follett (22th, 22:30.51) and Chloe Anderson (29th, 22:45.22) also placed for New Mexico.
The Lobos finished with a point total of 31 points, topping No. 25 Boise State's tally of 60 points. Despite Boise State's Emma Bates taking top individual honors, the Lobos were able to post their sixth-straight score below 35 points.
Colorado State finished third overall, registering 117 points, while fifth-place Air Force was a point behind at 118 points. Utah State (fifth place, 121 points), Wyoming (sixth, 143), Nevada (seventh, 162), Fresno State (eighth, 201), San Diego State (ninth, 274 ), San José State (10th, 297) and UNLV (11th, 330) rounded out the team scores.
Franklin also emerged with some titles of his own, earning his sixth straight MW Women's Coach of the Year and his third straight Men's Coach of the Year honor. No coach has won as many Women's Coach of the Year accolades as Franklin.
Now, the Lobos will have to a week off before heading to the NCAA Mountain Region Championships on Nov. 15 in Ogden, Utah.