NCAA West Preliminary Championships — Fayetteville, Ark.
When: Thursday-Saturday, May 29-31
Where: John McDonnell Field in Fayetteville, Ark.
Live Results: FlashResults.com
A meet away from the national championships and Joe Franklin was succinct: “You don’t have to have heroics.”
The New Mexico head coach is right. The Lobos can save the heroics for the NCAAs.
The University of New Mexico track and field team is aiming for the national championships as it sends 26 athletes to the 2014 NCAA Division I Men's and Women's Outdoor Track and Field Preliminary Championships competition this weekend.
The Lobos will send 15 men and 11 women to the NCAA West Preliminary championships at John McDonnell Field in Fayetteville, Ark., Thursday through Saturday with the goal of placing in the top 12 of their respective events.
A top-12 finish at the preliminary rounds — which are split between the West region in Fayetteville and the East region in Jacksonville, Fla. — advances a competitor to next month's NCAA Championships in Eugene, Ore.
“Do what you’re capable of doing and we’ll get quite a few people through to Eugene,” Franklin said. “... We have some high-powered individuals. It’s also about the group, the strength in numbers and people that care about competing hard and competing well and doing well in school.”
The Lobos, having won the Mountain West championships in men’s and women’s indoor track and men’s outdoor track, are certainly capable of national-caliber, high-powered performances.
The No. 25 men have earned a MW-best 18 bids to the West Prelims, and the women have captured 11, their best since 2011.
But, as Franklin said, the Lobos don’t need to be heroes to make the national championships.
“If you feel like you have to overachieve, then you’re going to have problems because you’re going to put undue stress,” he said.
With 48 athletes entered in each individual event, New Mexico will need strong performances to claim a top-12 finish and advance as many athletes as possible. But, should the Lobo compete to their abilities, they won’t need the heroics.
UNM is one of just three schools with three athletes running the 5K/10K double — along with Colorado and Oregon — and the Lobo trio is fresh off sweeping the top-three finishes in both events at the recent MW Outdoor Championships.
“I think all three have a chance to make the national championship,” Franklin said.
Caldwell, seeded fifth in the 5000 and 29th in the 10000, leads the group. He won both events at the conference championships and holds season-best times of 13 minutes, 33.28 seconds in the 5000 and 28:59.63 in the 10000.
He is also the school-record holder in the 5000 with a personal record of 13:29.94 registered last year.
Right behind Caldwell are Bitchell and Zacharias. Bitchell is ranked 23rd in the 5000 (seed time of 13:54.48) and 11th in the 10000 (28:50.43), while Zacharias 41st in the 5000 (14:05.11) and 20th in the 10000 (29:02.15).
The Lobos also have four athletes qualified in the 1500, including the MW champion, Peter Callahan. Callahan, an All-American during his time at Princeton, has been a force for New Mexico and is seeded 15th in the metric mile with a personal-best clocking of 3:42.62.
Gabe Aragon, the MW champion in the 800, will look to parlay his title into a nationals bid when he puts his 12th-seeded and personal-record time of 1:49.01 to the test.
Charles Lewis and Elmar Engholm round out the men’s track athletes. Lewis — the only athlete in MW history to earn all-conference honors in the 400 and 400 hurdles — is 16th in the 400 hurdles (50.89), while Engholm — a MW champ and regional qualifier in 2013 — is ninth in the 3000 steeplechase (8:50.35).
Out in the field, five Lobos will try their luck at advancing, with Kendall Spencer headlining the men’s efforts.
Spencer, seeded third in the long jump, comes in with a season best of 26 feet, 1 inch and can certainly challenge for a berth to nationals.
“He’s jumping very well,” Franklin said. “Life is going very well. He needs to go out and do what he’s done for the last five years.”
Alongside Spencer is Yannick Roggatz who is seeded 35th with a season-best mark of 24-7.
The final Lobo with designs on the NCAAs is Richard York, the MW javelin champion. He is 28th in the javelin throw with a personal-record toss of 213-5.
“Just advance, advance on,” Franklin said about the men’s qualifiers. “It doesn’t matter if you win or get fifth. There’s no difference in your goals, so you win or get fifth and you’re off to the national championship.
The women, while entered in fewer events than the men, are just as capable of advancing athletes.
The UNM women have seven runners qualified in the 1500, the most by any school in any one event at the entire West Preliminary championships.
“It’s nice,” Franklin said. “I think we can get all of them to the next round.”
Charlotte Arter is the top-seeded Lobo among the score of women’s entrants, heading to Fayetteville with the eighth-ranked time of 4:18.56.
Behind Arter are Sammy Silva (13th, 4:21.41), Calli Thackery (22nd, 4:23.06), Chloe Anderson (24th, 4:23.11), Amber Zimmerman (26th, 4:23.43), Suzi Boast (29th, 4:23.65) and Tamara Armoush (31st, 4:24.31).
The group earned six scorers at the MW Outdoor Championships — a conference record for the most scorers in one event — with two, Boast and Arter, earning all-conference honors.
The women also have two runners competing in the steeplechase with Nicola Hood (35th, 10:26.00) and Nicole Roberts (44th, 10:30.52). Both scored at the MW Championships and both rank top-five in school history in the event.
The final two Lobo qualifiers, Aasha Marler and Jannell Hadnot, are also eyeing the NCAAs. Marler is entered in the long jump and is seeded 34th (19-9) and Hadnot is entered in the triple jump and is seeded 12th (42 ¾).
Both scored in their fortes at the MW Championships.
The meet kicks off Thursday at 11 a.m. MT with the field events and 3:30 p.m. MT with the running events. The meet will continue through Friday with UNM action starting at 4 p.m. and concludes around 9 p.m. MT on Saturday.
Check back each day for a quick recap on the Lobos' action and again on Saturday for a full recap.