Nov. 9, 2012
FORT COLLINS, Colo. — Louisville, meet the Lobos.
After registering strong showings at the NCAA Mountain Regional Championship in Fort Collins, Colo., the University of New Mexico's nationally ranked cross country teams are poised to compete at next week's NCAA Championship in Louisville, Ky.
The women placed second at Collindale Golf Course and automatically qualified to the national championship, while the men — despite not guaranteed a spot after placing fourth — should qualify based off their regular-season résumé.
"They did a great job," New Mexico head coach Joe Franklin said of his teams. "They ran well as a group. They did a really solid job and they just keep getting better and better."
With the NCAA Championships in a week, the Lobos hope their best is yet to come.
New Mexico's 17th-ranked women's team is guaranteed to be competing in the 31-team field at the NCAA Championships. For the No. 16 men, they will have to wait until tomorrow to know if they have advanced.
Even though the men didn't punch their tickets Friday, the Lobos did produce a solid showing in their 10-kilometer race. With reigning Mountain West individual champion Luke Caldwell leading the way, New Mexico tallied 108 points as team to place fourth.
While the men aren't yet guaranteed a berth in Louisville, their postseason-worthy credentials developed at nationally prominent meets at Notre Dame and Wisconsin predict them as a lock.
"I feel very confident that they'll make the NCAA Championships," Franklin said.
On the women's side, the Lobos did lock up their national championship berth behind Josephine Moultrie's 20:25.1 time in the women's 6K.
Moultrie, who had been leading the Lobos until illness slowed her down at the conference championships meet two weeks ago, rebounded to finish fifth overall.
"Josephine did a great job," Franklin said. "She was sick at the conference meet and that definitely showed. She just keeps getting better and better."
New Mexico also received top-20 times out of Charlotte Arter and Lacey Oeding as the women combined to score 95 points. Arter finished 10th with a 20:54.3 time, while MW titlist Oeding placed 18th with a 21:07.7 clocking.
"Everybody ran great," Franklin said.
The women, who had at least shared the regional title the past two years, finished runner up to No. 13 Weber State, 63-95, who will advance alongside the Lobos.
In the men's race, No. 22 Northern Arizona upset No. 2 Colorado 56-68 for the top finish. Both the Lumberjacks and No. 7 BYU have qualified to Louisville, while Colorado (like the Lobo men) must wait until tomorrow to know they have secured their spot at the national championships.
But for the Lobos, who have competed their men and women at three straight NCAA Championships, they have already turned their attention to next weekend.
"It's a whole different game when you get to the championships," Franklin said. "It's going to be very similar to the Wisconsin meet where there are just bodies everywhere. We've never been to Louisville before so it's a different course.
"But if both teams can go down there and finish in the top 20, then you've had a great weekend."
Coming off of one great weekend, the Lobos can only hope so.