RIVERSIDE, Utah — Time for Terre Haute.
After registering top-notch results at the NCAA Mountain Region Championships Friday, the University of New Mexico’s nationally ranked cross country teams are in position to move onto the national championships next week.
The Lobo women placed second behind individual champion Sammy Silva and will automatically advance to the NCAA Championships next Saturday in Terre Haute, Ind., while the men will have to earn an at-large bid after placing third overall.
However, the 11th-ranked men should grab an at-large spot via their regular-season résumé, which would make it five straight years New Mexico has sent both teams to the NCAA Championships.
The No. 8 women have qualified six years in the row, dating back to 2008.
"There can’t be many teams that have done that,” Lobo head coach Joe Franklin said. “It’s just what we try to do. We just get better and better and better. And I think we’re slowly doing that.”
New Mexico is just one of six schools — along with Colorado, Stanford, Florida State, Georgetown and Villanova — to have sent both their men’s and women’s teams to the NCAA Championships from 2009 to 2012.
But at this meet, New Mexico was just focusing on moving on.
And for the women, they did exactly that.
Heading into the meet as the region’s top team, the Lobos essentially needed to run like they have all season to secure one of the automatic bids. Despite No. 10 Colorado challenging the women for the team title, New Mexico managed to ride their remarkable team parity to a runner-up team finish.
“The women ran OK,” Franklin said. “We had some a couple of really, really solid races and we had some average races. But the nice thing is that if this is your average day, that’s a pretty good day.”
Sammy Silva led the women at Schneiter's Riverside Golf Course, winning the six-kilometer race in 20 minutes, 29.3 seconds. Silva is the first UNM harrier to win a women’s region race since Lisa Mitchell did it in 1981.
Charlotte Arter was close behind and ran to a third-place finish of 20:34.8. Together, Silva and Arter are the first UNM women’s duo to claim two top-three finishes at a regional meet.
“They looked very comfortable,” Franklin said of the top two finishers.
The women combined to score 69 points, which is their second-lowest score in 35 years behind a 53-point effort to win the meet in 2010. They were also able to turn in their second straight second-place showing at the Mountain Region Championship.
Overall, Colorado also grabbed an automatic bid and took the women’s team title with a score of 29 points. BYU (109 points) was third, host Weber State (160) fourth and Air Force (185) fifth.
For the women, this will be their sixth straight appearance at the NCAA Championships and 10th overall, counting two trips to the AIWA championships. The Lobos finished 10th in last year, ninth in 2011, fifth in 2010, 13th in 2009 and 18th in 2008 in their string of NCAA appearances under Franklin.
Unlike the women’s race, the men’s race was far more competitive, with seven nationally ranked teams — including the nation’s top two teams, No. Colorado and No. 2 Northern Arizona — dueling for two automatic berths.
Still, the men were able to outdo their regional rank of fourth, as they placed third overall.
“They guys ran phenomenally and very comfortably, which was nice,” Franklin said. “It looked like a Friday practice.”
Luke Caldwell, for the eighth time in the last nine races in which he has competed, led New Mexico over the 10-kilometer course with a clocking of 29:46.1.
But the Mountain West individual runner up wasn’t alone, as Adam Bitchell took eighth in 29:47.2. It’s the first time since the men won the meet in 2010 that UNM recorded two top-10 finishers.
As a team, the men tallied 79 points, just 10 points behind second-place Colorado (69 points) and 18 behind winner Northern Arizona (61 points).
However, the team performance the men rolled out, which included a spread of just 21 second among the five scorers, impressed Franklin.
“They just did a really good job,” he said. “If that performance, or something similar to that, happens in a week [at the NCAA Championships], they’re going to be really high up in the team score.”
31 teams are selected to participate in each championship. The top two teams from each of the nine regions automatically qualified to the NCAA Championships, for a total of 18 teams. 13 additional teams will be selected at-large based off of those teams regular-season wins over other institution's squads.
The meet is next Saturday, November 23, at the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course in Terre Haute, Ind.