EUGENE, Ore. — New Mexico head coach Joe Franklin wanted his Lobos to compete hard at the national championships.
Peter Callahan made sure his coach got that and more.
Callahan, a graduate athlete for the University of New Mexico track and field team, placed fourth in the men's 1,500-meter run on the final day of competition at the 2014 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships Saturday.
Callahan earned five team points for New Mexico via his finish at Hayward Field in Eugene, as he also earned First-Team All-American honors from the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.
“I think it went really well,” Franklin said. “... I thought Peter did an outstanding job.”
Callahan, racing at his first NCAA Outdoor Championship after an All-American career at Princeton, finished fourth overall in the metric mile in a personal-record time of 3 minutes, 39.90 seconds.
After finishing fourth in Thursday’s preliminary round, the Evanston, Ill., product was in contention to duplicate that performance in the finals versus a field that included reigning champ Mac Fleet of host Oregon and prelim-round titlist Lawi Lalang of Arizona.
Callahan ran comfortably in the middle of the 12-athlete field for the first 1200 meters, sitting in seventh with 400 meters remaining.
However, he parlayed one of his signature kicks at the bell to surge into the top four and challenge Fleet and Lalang coming around the final turn.
He finished just .81 seconds behind Fleet, who defended his title in 3:39.09.
“Just an outstanding job,” Franklin said of Callahan’s performance. “It was a great race.”
Callahan’s finish is the best by a Lobo in a track event at an NCAA Outdoor Championship since 2009, when two-time NCAA mile champion Lee Emanuel placed third.
His run also generated the Lobos’ only team points at the meet. The men finished tied for 44th with five points as the program scored for the eighth straight year at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
Elsewhere, New Mexico had seven additional athletes compete at Hayward Field.
On the track, Adam Bitchell placed 10th in Wednesday’s 10,000 with a time of 29:16.79. His finish is the highest by a Lobo in the event since Jeremy Johnson placed seventh in 2008.
Luke Caldwell also ran the 10K, finishing 15th in 29:48.64.
“The 10,000 was a very difficult race,” Franklin said. “Luke got himself into scoring position, but it was just a hard race. Adam ran a little more conservative early, just enough, to finish 10th.”
Caldwell, a five-time All-American at five straight NCAA cross-country and track championships, saw his streak end in his final race as a Lobo.
“Even though Luke didn’t finish out the way he wanted to, his body of work over the last two years was phenomenal,” Franklin said. “He’ll go down as one of the greatest distance runners in program history.”
Also from Wednesday, Charles Lewis barely missed advancing to the finals of the 400 hurdles, finishing 11th overall in the 24-athlete field with a time of 50.86.
“Chaz just missed the finals, but he improved on what his seed was coming in,” Franklin said. “… He it had going into the last hurdle and just mistimed that hurdled a little bit and you just can’t have those mistimings at this level. But his season was phenomenal.”
The first Lobo to compete in the event at the national championship since 1979, he was just .18 seconds from qualifying to the finals.
Thursday saw the UNM women’s three mid-distance standouts compete in the prelims of the 1,500, as all three posted strong, albeit not finals-worthy, times.
Since the top five finishers from each heat plus the next two fastest times overall advanced to the 12-athlete finals, none of the three UNM women advanced.
With all three women eliminated from the finals, the UNM women’s track and field team did not have a competitor in any final round at the NCAA Outdoor Championships for the second consecutive year.
The final Lobo to compete was Richard York, who placed 24th in the javelin throw with a distance of 189 feet, two inches.
Overall, the Texas A&M women won their fourth team championship since 2009 with a score of 75 points. Texas placed second with 66 points, and Oregon claimed third with 59 points.
On the men’s side, host Oregon won the team title with 88 points, duplicating their victory from the UNM- and Albuquerque-hosted NCAA Indoor Championships in March. Florida placed second (70 points), while Texas A&M was third (41.5).
For the Lobos, they will head home having wrapped up the 2014 track and field season. A handful of athletes, including Caldwell and Bitchell, will compete in international competition over the summer.