Mountain West Indoor Track & Field Championships — Colorado Springs, Colo.
When: Thursday-Saturday, Feb. 27-March 1, 2014
Where: Cadet Field House in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Live Results: LiveRunningResults.com
New Mexico head coach Joe Franklin put it succinctly.
"Don’t beat up on yourself, beat others.”
It’s a mentality the Lobos’ track and field team is keen to adopt this weekend as they head to the Mountain West Indoor Track & Field Championships Thursday to Saturday at the Cadet Field House in Colorado Springs, Colo.
After winning the men’s title and earning women’s runner-up honors last year, the Lobos are looking to be competitive and not place undue pressure on themselves as they vie for conference supremacy in the Mountain West.
“Going into this, both teams want to do everything they can to win,” Franklin said. “I think it’s going to be super close on the men’s side, very close on the women’s side.”
Without a doubt, this year’s edition of the conference championships is shaping up to be closely fought.
The New Mexico men lead the conference in the national rankings at 40th, while the No. 35 San Diego State women are tops on their side. But beyond those two teams, the parity in the conference looks to lend itself to some tight battles.
In the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Mountain Region rankings released Tuesday, UNM’s men’s team is third, with Colorado State ranked fifth, Air Force sixth and Wyoming ninth.
The women’s team are similar, with the New Mexico women third in the Mountain Region, Colorado State sixth and Wyoming ninth. In the west region, San Diego State is seventh and Boise State is ninth.
But, outside of the rankings, the opportunities are there for the Lobos.
“The goal is to go into every race, every event and give kids an opportunity to score points for the university because this is a meet that is about the team and not about self,” Franklin said.
That team-over-self aspect is another key for New Mexico, as the Lobos will have to work cohesively in order to claim the men’s second title indoors ever and the first women’s title ever.
On the men’s side, New Mexico is a deep, balanced team with scoring threats throughout its roster. They stack up comparably to host Air Force and Colorado State, which could indicate a three-team race for the title.
“I think that Colorado State, Air Force, New Mexico all have a shot,” Franklin said. “I think it’s kind of a toss up either way.”
However, the Lobos are striving to make the odds more in their favor, and will look to their middle-distance and distance crew for a bulk of their points.
Three of those harriers — Elmar Engholm, Adam Bitchell and Luke Caldwell — are all leading the MW in the three distance events, with Engholm in the mile, Bitchell in the 3,000-meter run and Caldwell in the 5,000.
All three will take aim in multiple events this weekend in order to gain more points.
Since all of them are entered in multiple events, ranging from the 800 to the 5,000, the dozen distance runners represent over two dozen different scoring opportunities for UNM.
But the distance runners won’t be only ones fighting for points.
The Lobos’ sprinters are another potential source of points, featuring the conference leader in the 60, Ridge Jones.
The football/track standout (who continues to lead all NCAA football players in the 60) is entered in both the 60 and 200, and will run with Kendall Spencer and Jhurell Pressley in the 60 and Mustafa Mudada in the 200.
The 400 is another distance that could prove important, with Charles Lewis and Chris Kline ranking fourth and sixth in the MW, respectively, in the 400, and the 4x400 meter relay team of Kline, Mudada, Lewis and Cheyne Dorsey leading the MW.
Elsewhere, Spencer and Warrick Campbell look to pace the Lobos’ jumpers to scoring efforts, as well, with Spencer in the long jump and Campbell in the triple jump (his speciality) and the long jump.
Roggatz will also compete in the 60 hurdles, where he’ll put his 9th-ranked time to the test.
Rounding out the Lobos’ contingent are the vertical jumpers, including defending MW high jump champion Django Lovett.
Altogether, the Lobos bring back three individual titlists from last year’s championship team, and add additional talent.
“I would hope that we could be challenging for a title with two events left,” Franklin said. "I like that scenario.”
The scenario, however, might be a bit different on the women’s side. The Lobos are largely a different team from last year, but still have firepower in two groups of events, the distance races and the jumps.
“It’s a little different,” Franklin said. “The men will score in more places, just a guess, but the women score in big, giant clumps.
“We’re going to score well in the jumps, we’re going to score well in the vault. We’re going to score well in the distances and middle distances.”
Those groups, if productive, might be enough to halt San Diego State’s bid to repeat. But it’s an 11-team field, so the Lobos will have to get contributions from across the board.
“I think it’s us and San Diego State, “ Franklin said, “but UNLV is going to score some points, Colorado State is going to score some points. [It] just depends on if we can get through it or not.”
Turner is second in the MW in the long jump and third in the triple jump, while Hadnot is second in the triple jump and Marler is third in the long jump. Add in Dowling (9th in the long jump), and the Lobos could score a great deal of points in the jumps alone.
Samantha Bowe could also register more points when she competes in the pentathlon and the high jump.
Nonetheless, New Mexico might get the most points from the distance races, where a number of Lobos are slated to compete.
The entire group, like the men, are entered in events ranging from the 800 to the 5000, presenting another group of scoring opportunities.
The rest of the Lobos points will probably come from the sprints, where the Lobos are deeper than last year.
Holly Van Grinsven will also compete in the 60 hurdles.
As a team, the Lobos have the strength in enough areas to challenge for a team title, which would be a program first.
“They’ve never won a conference title, so to be the first in school history to do that I think means a lot to them,” Franklin said.
The meet starts Thursday with the women’s pentathlon at 11 a.m. MT, and continues Friday with field events at 12:30 p.m. and track events at 1:30 p.m. Saturday’s activities start at 10 a.m. in the field and at noon on the track, with the awards ceremony scheduled for 3 p.m.
Live results are located at LiveRunningResults.com, and daily recaps will be posted at GoLobos.com.