ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Six University of New Mexico track and field alumni are competing at the 2014 Commonwealth Games next week in Glasgow, Scotland, as they face off against the best athletes in the Commonwealth of Nations.
2014 New Mexico graduates Luke Caldwell and Adam Bitchell will join fellow Lobo alumni David Bishop, Lee Emanuel, Keith Gerrard and Jarrin Solomon at Hampden Park as they represent their countries for the 20th edition of the event.
“It’s a massive international competition, one of the biggest competitions in the world,” New Mexico head coach Joe Franklin said. “It is, outside of the Olympic Games and the World Championships, the biggest competition in the world.
“For those guys to compete for their countries and to represent their former university, the University of New Mexico, is quite an honor. It just continues to show what kind of student that are coming to UNM.”
The group includes some of the most accomplished runners to come through Albuquerque during Franklin’s eight-year tenure.
All six qualified to at least one NCAA Championship while at New Mexico and helped lay the building blocks for a program that has won eight Mountain West team titles on the men’s side since 2009.
“To be running around in their country’s uniforms and have New Mexico stuff in their bag is great,” Franklin said.
"That group was the backbone of what started our run of high finishes."
Out of the group, the youngest, Caldwell and Bitchell, are less than two months removed from their last action as Lobos.
The 2014 graduates competed and roomed together while at UNM, and won five Mountain West team titles between cross-country and track after arriving in Albuquerque in 2012.
Caldwell, hailing from Betchworth, England, is competing for Scotland in the 5,000- and 10,000-meter runs. Since his parents are Scottish, he is donning the host nation’s vest for the Commonwealth Games.
He was a five-time First-Team All-American at New Mexico and was named Mountain West Men's Indoor Student-Athlete of the Year in 2013 and 2014 and the Mountain West Men's Outdoor Student-Athlete of the Year in 2013.
Caldwell was a nine-time MW champion during his two years running cross-country and track for UNM. He is the only track athlete in Mountain West history with as many titles.
Additionally, he owns the the school and conference record of 13 minutes, 34.54 seconds in the indoor 5000 and is the school record holder in outdoor 5000 (13:29.94).
Bitchell, an Aberystwyth, Wales, native, is racing in the 10,000 for Wales. He is a six-time All-Mountain West athlete between cross country and track, capturing runner-up honors in the 5,000 both indoors and outdoors and the 10,000 outdoors during the 2014 campaign.
He also shined in international competition before coming to New Mexico, winning the 5,000 at the 2011 British Universities & Colleges Sport (BUCS) Championships and claiming runner-up honors in the 5K at the 2012 BUCS Championships.
He has a personal record of 28:50.43 in the 10,000, ranking him ninth in New Mexico history.
Gerrard is also entered in the longest of the track races as he takes aim in the 5,000 and the 10,000.
A cross country specialist, Gerrard is a native of the Isle of Man in the United Kingdom, for which he is competing at the Commonwealth Games.
Gerrard won the English National Cross Country Championships in 2012 and 2013, and claimed victory in the 5,000 at the British Athletics League Premiership earlier this month.
He owns personal bests of 13:50.06 in the 5,000 and 28:27.03 in the 10,000.
Gerrard also competed with the British national team at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in 2009 and competed for UNM at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in 2011, where he earned First-Team All-American honors.
Of the long-distance runners, Franklin said, “They’re all very fit. Luke is running very well. He just ran a two mile in London and beat some of the very best in the world. Keith is running well. Adam’s been at a training camp in Portugal.”
The Lobos will have two alumni also taking aim in distance events, with a pair of graduates competing in the 1,500.
Hailing from Chippenham, England, Bishop is another former Lobo competing for Scotland at the Commonwealth Games.
He has a personal record of 3:37.51 in the 1,500 and set a new lifetime best of 3:56.96 in the mile earlier this month at the Morton Games in Ireland. His personal record in the 1,500 is the sixth-fastest in Scottish history, while his time in the mile tabs him seventh all time.
He also won the 3,000 at the 2013 British Athletics Indoor Championships, and competed at the 2011 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships for New Mexico.
He currently holds the sixth fastest 1500-meter run time in UNM history.
Emanuel, arguably one of New Mexico’s best middle distance runners ever, heads to Glasgow eyeing a strong finish in the 1,500 for England.
A two-time NCAA Champion in the indoor mile (having won in 2009 and 2010), the Hastings, England, product is the only Lobo to have won back-to-back national titles.
Post-collegiately, he also won the 1,500 at the British Athletics Championships in February and the was second in the event at the 2013 British Athletics European Trials & UK Championships.
He owns the New Mexico record in the 1,500 (3.37.25) and the mile (3.57.62) and takes in a lifetime best of 3:36.55 in the metric mile that he set last July.
His personal best in the mile is 3:54.30, which ranks second in the history of English athletics.
“Both of them have chance to make the final and place very high,” Franklin said. “Both of them have very high goals. Dave just ran a lifetime best in the mile at 3:57 and Lee ran a lifetime best in the 1000 meters, so they’re ready to go.”
The final New Mexico graduate entered might have the shiniest credentials, if you believe Olympic medals carry such weight.
Solomon, an Albuquerque native and La Cueva High School graduate, claimed a bronze medal in the 4x400 meter relay at the 2012 Olympic Games in London running for Trinidad and Tobago.
Son of Lobo graduate and Trinidad and Tobago native Michael Solomon, the younger Solomon has had no trouble making a name for himself in the track world.
Along with his Olympic bronze medal, he has placed third in the 4x400 at the 2012 IAAF World Indoor Championships and 2014 IAAF World Relays. He was part of the sixth-place relay team at the 2014 IAAF World Championships.
He holds a personal record of 44.98 in the 400, set last Saturday in Belgium. His time ranks him 17th in the world in the event in 2014.
While as UNM, he set the still-standing school record in the indoor 400 (46.33), winning three conference titles in the 400 and earning All-American status in 2009.
He will compete in the 400 and 4x400 relay for Trinidad and Tobago.
“With Jarrin being 28, he’s not the youngest guy out there,” Franklin said. “He’s continuing to improve. He just ran a lifetime best last week.
“For him to make the final, I’m sure is an expectation, and there’s a shot he can medal. That in itself is absolutely phenomenal.”
Gerrard and Caldwell open competition for the contingent of UNM graduates on Sunday as they compete in the 5,000. Solomon runs the 400 on July 28 before the 4x400 on Aug. 1, the same day Gerrard, Caldwell and Bitchell race the 10,000. In between, on July 29, Emanuel and Bishop will run the 1,500.