LARAMIE, Wyo. — The “Triple Crown” chase was never certain.
But with their track record, who could doubt the Lobos?
The University of New Mexico men’s track and field team won its first-ever outdoor team title at the 2014 Mountain West Outdoor Track & Field Championships Saturday, as the women's team placed second overall.
The Lobo men, winners of the MW cross-country title in November and the MW indoor track title in March, have claimed the program’s first “Triple Crown” by sweeping all three championships in one season.
“I think it went really well,” New Mexico head coach Joe Franklin said. “The men got themselves in a bit of a pickle early on in the meet, even through yesterday, and really came together and had a great day today and pulled it off.”
Behind six individual titles and superlative performances across the board, the men registered the conference’s first “Triple Crown” since 2009 on Memorial 8 Track at Louis S. Madrid Sports Complex.
It’s the ninth “Triple Crown” in MW history, but the first not accomplished by departed conference member BYU.
“It’s amazingly special,” Franklin said. “It hasn’t been done since BYU in 2009, so they’ve cemented themselves in history.”
But, despite the final score, the team title was far from certain for most of the meet.
New Mexico trailed Colorado State for most of the meet, but parlayed incredible performances from their distance runners at key junctures of the meet — including a clinching medal sweep in the 5,000-meter run — to claim their title.
Caldwell — an eight-time MW champion between indoors and outdoors — won his final conference race with a time of 14 minutes, 42.79 seconds. He was followed by Bitchell (time of 14:43.94) and Zacharias (14:47.34) as the trio recorded just the second sweep of the 5K medals in MW history.
The trio posted the top-three times in the 10K Friday, as Caldwell (31:19.99), Bitchell (31:20.90) and Zacharias (31:25.16) went 1-2-3 in that event.
However, the “Tres Lobos” weren’t the only New Mexico runners contributing to the winning effort.
In the 800, Aragon used a massive kick in the last 100 meters to edge Wyoming’s Harry Fisher by .002 seconds, 1:51.195 to 1:51.197.
Callahan also used a strong push over the final lap of the 1500 to claim the metric-mile title, finishing in 3:58.81. Callahan also scored in the 800 (third place, 1:52.26), with JP Cordova (seventh, 1:53.82) adding points.
Elsewhere on the track, the UNM men relied on scores from their sprinters, with Charles Lewis’ double in the 400 dash and 400 hurdles leading the group.
Lewis took second in the 400 (personal-record 47.09) and third in the 400 hurdles (51.64) to become the only athlete in conference history to place top-three in both events at a single championship.
Behind him in the 400 was Chris Kline, who was third in a personal-best time of 47.48.
The men’s relay teams also contributed, as the men’s 4x100 meter relay team of Kendall Spencer, Ridge Jones, Mustafa Mudada and Kline finished third (40.51) and the men’s 4x400 team of Kline, Mudada, Lewis and Aragon placed second (3:10.40).
On the field, the Lobos gained additional points and a pair of titles with scoring efforts in every event in which they competed.
From Friday, Spencer led three scorers in the long jump as he placed second with a leap of 25-2 ¾. Yannick Roggatz (sixth, 23-2 ¾) and Warrick Campbell (eighth, 22-10) also scored in the long jump while Markus Miller (seventh, 6-5) and York (eighth, 6-3 ¼) scored in the high jump.
York was also third in the decathlon on Thursday.
“We not only had a lot of great performances [in the distance events] and scored a lot of points and kept people out,” Franklin said, “but the javelin was as equally as important of an event for us, and the vault was important and the triple jump.
“Wherever we had people competing, everything was important today.”
The men won with a program-best 185 points, topping Colorado State’s tally of 156 points. Utah State was second with 127 points, followed by Air Force (126 points), host Wyoming (110), Boise State (67) and Fresno State (45).
Franklin also earned his first MW Outdoor Coach of the Year honor, becoming the first Lobo coach to receive honor since Matt Henry in 2002.
On the women’s side, while a title and a “Triple Crown” wasn’t in the cards, a superb team effort was.
The women combined to finish in second place as they translated scoring efforts across the track into their third runner-up performance in the last four years.
“We had some places where we just didn’t have some great performance, but we had others that had amazing performances and that balances outs,” Franklin said.
Like the men, the women were paced by unparalleled races from their distance runners. The Lobos’ distance team contributed 67 of the women’s 124 points.
Charlotte Arter was one of many highlights from the UNM harriers, as she was second in the 1500 (4:40.95), third in the 5000 (17:47.36) and sixth in the 800 (2:12.98).
Arter led a convoy of Lobos in the 1500, as six scored. Behind Arter was Suzi Boast (third, 4:41.31), Sammy Silva (fourth, 4:41.61), Chloe Anderson (sixth, 4:42.02), Calli Thackery (seventh, 4:42.68) and Tamara Armoush (eighth, 4:42.69).
Boast captured second in the 800 (2:10.13), as well, with Anderson (third, 2:10.49) and Armoush (seventh, 2:13.44) adding scores.
In the 5,000, Thackery (fourth, 17:48.63), Silva (sixth, 17:53.28) and Heleene Tambet (seventh, 17:54.13) chipped in additional scores, with the final distance scores coming from Friday’s steeplechase in Nicole Roberts (fourth, 11:19.26) and Nicola Hood (seventh, 11:44.87).
Not to be outdone by their distance counterparts, the sprints also had one of their best showings ever at a conference meet. Five Lobos scored, with Kayla Fisher Taylor placing fifth in both the 100 (11.95) and the 200 (24.26).
The relay teams also contributed, as the 4x100 team of Brittany Myricks, Peri Moran, Sanner and Marler placed fourth (46.09) and the 4x400 team of Sanner, Zoe Howell, Riker-Urrutia and Holly Van Grinsven was fifth (3:46.53).
In the field, New Mexico produced just a handful of scoring efforts, with Marler in the long jump (sixth, 19-4 ¾), Jannell Hadnot in the triple jump (fourth, 40-7 ¾) and the pole-vault trio of Annie Stirling (second, 12-10 ¼), Nathalie Busk (seventh, 12 ½) and Margo Tucker (eighth, 12 ½).
From the heptathlon on Wednesday and Thursday, Samantha Bowe was fourth and Van Grinsven was sixth.
San Diego State claimed their second consecutive MW title with 144 points. The Lobos’ 124-point tally was second, followed by Colorado State (third, 94.5), Wyoming (fourth, 94), Boise State (fifth, 90.5), Utah State (sixth, 78), UNLV (seventh, 59), Fresno State (eighth, 56), Nevada (ninth, 47), Air Force (10th, 31) and San José State (11th, zero points).
With the conclusion of the conference championships, New Mexico's outdoor season has ended for most of the team. A handful will travel to the NCAA West Preliminary Championship in Fayetteville, Ark., on May 29-31 as they try their luck at making it to the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Ore., on June 11-14.