FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Track Town USA better watch out: the Lobos are coming, and they’re bringing a pack.
Four University of New Mexico track and field athletes qualified to the NCAA Championships Saturday as the Lobos’ 1500-meter runners tallied superb performances at the 2014 NCAA West Preliminary competition.
Peter Callahan, Charlotte Arter, Sammy Silva and Suzi Boast all punched their tickets to next month’s NCAA Championships in Eugene, Ore., joining Luke Caldwell, Adam Bitchell, Richard York and Charles Lewis, all of whom qualified the first two days of the meet.
It’s the first time in three years eight athletes qualified to the NCAA Championships.
“There’s always some really, really good things that happen, there’s always some things that just didn’t quite go your way,” New Mexico head coach Joe Franklin said. “But overall, it was a great day.
“We were hoping for five or six people to make it through and we had eight, so it was a really great day.”
Saturday’s performances were highlighted by tremendous races from New Mexico’s metric milers, as three of the four qualifiers ran to personal bests.
Callahan started the Lobos off with a personal-record time of 3 minutes, 40.40 seconds in the men’s 1500, placing second overall and capturing an automatic berth to nationals.
With a superlative kick — as he is apt to do — Callahan became the first UNM men’s athlete in three years to advance to the NCAAs in the 1500.
“Peter closed really well and that was very positive,” Franklin said.
For the women, Arter claimed her nationals spot in the first of two heats, cruising to an automatic bid with her time of 4:19.67. She was sixth overall and now owns six of the eight fastest times over 1500 meters in school history.
Silva and Boast ran together in the second heat and parlayed strong bell laps to secure their place at the NCAAs. Silva clocked a lifetime best of 4:19.87 to place seventh overall, while Boast broke a five-year best in the event, placing ninth overall in 4:20.06.
They rank fourth and fifth, respectively, in school history in the event.
“For those three women to do that, and the group as a whole, they continue to get better and better and better,” Franklin said.
From Thursday, Caldwell advanced to his sixth straight NCAA championship between cross-country and track. He qualified in the 10000 in his penultimate meet as a Lobo with the ninth-place time of 29:35.83.
Bitchell also qualified in the 10000, racing to an 11th-place time of 29:40.35.
The duo are the first pair of UNM teammates in five years to advance in the 10000.
"To get two guys in, there can’t be very many (schools in the nation to do that)," Franklin said. "But I think we have a realistic chance to run a 10000 at the national championships."
York was the third Lobo to earn his berth to the NCAAs Thursday, as he tallied a personal-record mark of 215 feet, four inches in the javelin to place 10th overall.
He is just the sixth UNM athlete ever — and just the third in the last 40 years — to make the NCAA championships in the event.
"What Richard went through at the conference meet (a disqualification in the hurdles), to come back and make the NCAA Championships in his strongest event is a testament to his will," Franklin said.
Charles Lewis was the final Lobo to earn a spot at nationals, placing 10th overall in the 400 hurdles Friday with a personal-record time of 50.55.
He is just the third New Mexico male athlete ever — and the first since 1979 — to qualify to the NCAAs in the 400 hurdles.
"Chaz has made incredible improvements all year. He’s just touching what he can do," Franklin said.
He also ranks second all-time in the 400 hurdles in UNM history.
Meanwhile, New Mexico received strong efforts from the rest of its athletes, including a trio of exceptionally close, but not qualifying performances.
Both held qualifying marks in the final round of jumps, but were displaced by the competition.
Campbell missed the requisite 12th-place finish needed to advance by one spot, as he finished 13th with a leap of 51-1 ¾. Hadnot was three centimeters from advancing, placing 15th with a distance of 41-6.
Elmar Engholm was also bumped by a single competitor, as he finished the 13th overall in the 3000-meter steeplechase with a season-best time of 8:50.26.
Shelley was 18th in the quarterfinals with a time of 3:46.83, while Thackery ran 4:24.41 for 16th and Zimmerman 4:27.06 for 18th in the women’s quarterfinal round.
Also competing for the men on the track were Patrick Zacharias in the 5000 (31st, 14:40.27) and 10000 (23rd, 30:15.78); Gabe Aragon in the 800 (41st, 1:53.02); and Alex Cornwell (45th, 3:54.89), Ross Matheson (47th, 3:59.07) in the first round of the 1500.
Caldwell and Bitchell also ran in the 5000, finishing eighth (13:52.60) and 20th (14:22.08), respectively. Caldwell missed advancing by not placing top-five in his heat and not grabbing one of two at-large bids.
For the women, Aasha Marler competed in the long jump (28th, 19-2 ½); Tamara Armoush (28th, 4:24.46) and Chloe Anderson (29th, 4:24.77) competed in the first round of the 1500; and Nicole Roberts (24th, 10:30.52) and Nicola Hood (28th, 10:33.60) competed in the 3000 steeplechase.
The eight qualifiers are tied for second-most in program history, behind 11 qualifiers in 2009. Since the NCAA reconfigured its preliminary rounds in 2010, UNM has sent no fewer than six athlete to the NCAAs, both in 2012 and 2013.
The Lobos will travel to Eugene for the final rounds of the championships on June 11-14.