STEVENS: Emanuel's Plan To Repeat As NCAA Champ Is To Run Faster
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  01/28/2010
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Jan. 28, 2010

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

Lobo coach Joe Franklin and Lee Emanuel eye the UNM runner's second senior season a bit differently.

Franklin takes the fundamentalist, coach approach: train hard, be fit, give yourself a chance to win at the race's end and the season's end. It's a practical approach. It works.

Emanuel is more idealistic. He sees numbers on stopwatches dancing in his head. He sees other runners looking at his heels as those would-be challengers fade in his dust.

He sees his arms raised triumphantly in the air as his chest snaps through finish-line tapes - preferably at the NCAA Indoor Championships.

"I want to equal what I did last year," said Emanuel, who was listed as a senior in 2009, but was granted another year of eligibility.

"In all honesty, if I finished second at nationals, I wouldn't be deeply (happy). That kind of sets out what my targets are."

Emanuel's target is to defend his title as the NCAA Indoor Champion at a mile. That also puts a target on his back, which is what he is hoping other runners are looking at all season - his back.

"I'm sure if you beat the national champion that's a great achievement for every other runner," said Emanuel. "I'm sure there's a target on my back, but you have to deal with that. If you have success, that's going to come."

Emanuel's plan for dealing with other runners trying to run him down is a good plan. He plans to run faster.

He is the only Lobo miler to break the four-minute mark and holds the UNM record at 3:57.91. The previous Lobo mark was set in 1984.

He also owns the UNM record at 1,500 meters of 3:37.25. When he first took ownership of that mark, he snapped a 30-year-old Lobo mark.

"I'm definitely hoping to get faster," said Emanuel, who is competing in a mile run Friday at Indiana. "I feel like I'm in better shape now and a better runner now.

"I'd love to run something around 3:54 or 3:55. The collegiate record is 3:55, so if I could run 3:54 that would be quite an achievement. I don't think I'm too far away. I think I can go that fast."

Emanuel's shot at a mile in Bloomington, Ind., is his first race at that distance since his NCAA title run last March in College Station, Texas. He is one four collegians scheduled to run in the 10-man Invitational Mile set for 5:10 p.m. (Mt). Former Butler standout Scott Overall, who earned All-America honors in the event in 2007 under current coach Franklin, is also in the field.

Emanuel has come a long ways from his humble beginning as a Lobo runner. Put it this way: he went from a Lobo who once had to stop running to catch his breath and grew into a national champion - UNM's first NCAA champ since 1977.

"I think Joe might have been thinking, `What have I got here?" Emanuel said, looking back on his first run as a Lobo - a cross country event.

You have to cut Emanuel some slack for that run/walk/run. He had only been at Albuquerque altitude for a week and the heat was in the 90s.

And that longer distance wasn't exactly why Franklin brought Emanuel over from Hastings, England. Emanuel was destined to run the mile. But Franklin knew Emanuel would eventually bring points in cross country and the long-run training would help bring down times in the mile.

Emanuel thinks the world-class track at the Albuquerque Convention Center might helps brings down his times, too. There are meets set for that facility throughout the winter indoor season including the Mountain West Conference Indoor Championships. This weekend there is a meet scheduled for Friday night and Saturday morning.

"It's a fast track," said Emanuel. "Its soft and it gives you a nice bounce-back. I enjoy running indoors. It's enjoyable for me and the atmosphere is always good. I've had a bit more success indoors, so maybe my technique is suited to it a little more than outdoors."

That indoor theory is a possibility. After all, he is the reigning NCAA Indoor Champion at a mile.

Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is the former Associate Sports Editor and sports columnist for The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at rstevens50@comcast.net.