TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — Turquoise is Lobo cross country’s important color reserved for major meets. So when they break out the turquoise uniforms, they know it’s business time.
Sporting their special turquoise uniforms, the University of New Mexico's nationally ranked cross country teams ran to historic performances Saturday at the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships in Terre Haute, Ind.
The 11th-ranked women’s team turned in a 10th-place finish behind All-Americans Sammy Silva and Charlotte Arter, as the men’s team were paced to 11th place by two-time cross country All-American Luke Caldwell.
“You can’t be disappointed with a 10th- and 11th-place finish,” Franklin said. “We were 10th and 11th out of everybody in the country. … Things are definitely going in the right direction.”
It’s the first time in program history — stretching back into the the 1970s — that both teams placed top-12 at an NCAA Cross Country Championship.
Despite windy and muddy conditions at the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course, the Lobos received outstanding performances on both sides, including multiple All-Americans.
Silva, the reigning Mountain Region Women's Athlete of the Year, raced to 12th place overall in 20 minutes, 25.6 seconds, while Arter cross the finish line in 20:30.9 to finish 18th.
“They executed the race plan really well,” Franklin said. “For Sammy to get 12th and Charlotte to get 18th, that’s just a phenomenal run by both of them.”
It’s just the second time in program history — after Natalie Gray (15th) and Ruth Senior (33rd) in 2010 — that New Mexico recorded two All-Americans at single national championship.
The pair are also just the third and fourth runners in school history to place top-20 at the NCAAs, along with Gray and Carole Roybal (19th in 1984 and 13th in 1985).
But the Lobos also relied on their parity for their 10th-place finish.
Calli Thackery covered the women’s six-kilometer course in 21:04.0 to place 67th overall, while Heleene Tambet (146th place, 21:38.1) and Tamara Armoush (149th, 21:39.3) placed top-150 to round out the women’s scorers.
The women finished 10th out of 31 teams, combining to score 301 points. The Lobos have placed top-10 at the national championships for four straight year, and recorded their second consecutive 10th-place finish.
The women’s team score was also their second-lowest since the number of team expanded to 31 in 1998 (227 points in 2010) .
“They ran really well” Franklin said. “We really had a couple of women run really well. We had a couple that didn’t have a great day, but it wasn’t like it was a disastrous. The thing about our sport is that everyone is going to try.”
The men also ran to their own historic finish, as well, finishing in the top 15 at a national championship for the first time since 2009.
But with Luke Caldwell, that was hardly a surprise.
“He just keeps better and better and better,” Franklin said. “The guy’s running phenomenally well.”
Caldwell earned a second straight cross country All-American nod for his 10th-place individual performance, and finished his UNM cross-country career leading the men at nine of the 10 meets at which he has competed.
Zacharias’ time of 30:55.9 came in second for the men at 53rd place overall, while Bitchell’s clocking of 31:00.1 finished 61st overall.
As a team, the Lobos produced their best showing in four year, and posted a final team score of 334 points, their best since 2004.
The Lobos were only five points out of 10th place and eight from ninth.
“They did a great job,” Franklin said. “They went out after it. The philosophy was ‘let’s give it a shot a let’s see what happens.’”
After tying for eighth in 2009 and falling to 31st out of 31 in 2011, New Mexico has managed to bounce back into the national conversation.
But the Lobo men aren’t the only ones making a name for themselves.
As a program, men and women combined, New Mexico continued their consistently strong streak of team performances.
Entering the meet, UNM was one of four schools, along with Colorado, Stanford and Villanova, to send both their men’s and women’s teams to the NCAA Championships each of the last five years from 2009 to 2013.
The Lobos’ showing Saturday, however, set them even further apart.
Of the 16 schools that sent both the men and women to this year’s national championship, only New Mexico and Colorado placed both teams in the top-12 in their respective races.
“It’s very rare that you have both teams in the championships,” Franklin said. “But to have both teams compete at a high level on the same day, it just doesn’t happen very often.”
The Colorado men won the men’s team title with 149 points, edging out Northern Arizona (169 points) to avenge their loss to the Lumberjack at last week’s NCAA Mountain Region Championships (where the Lobo men were third).
2012 team championships Oklahoma State (230 points), BYU (267) and Oregon (274) filled out the rest of the top five.
Oregon freshman Edward Cheserek won the men’s individual title in 29:41.1.
For the women, No. 1 Providence lived up to their billing, defeating No. 2 Arizona 141-197. Butler (200 points), Michigan (215) and Georgetown (226) also placed top-five.
Dartmouth senior Abbey D’Agostino finally won her first NCAA cross country crown in 20:00.3, after finishing second last year and third in 2011.