May 11, 2010
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
For Lobo track fans, it will be Sandy Fortner Day Wednesday and Thursday at the Mountain West Conference Outdoor Track and Field Championships. They are a couple of days Lobo fans should pull to their heart and cherish.
"Sandy Fortner and Lee Emanuel are two of the best Lobos ever," said Lobo coach Joe Franklin. " This is the last chance for Lobo fans to see two of the greatest athletes who have ever competed at the University of New Mexico. If you are a track fan, you should want to come out and watch these two perform."
Fortner, definitely the Lobos' greatest heptathlon athlete ever, likely will push the New Mexico's women's side into a short-lived lead as she does her heptathlon thing. The league's men also will run the decathlon on those days and Lobos Richard York and Brian Wilson should pick up quality points.
The bulk of the MWC running, jumping and throwing will be Friday and Saturday at the Great Friends of UNM Track. Emanuel, UNM's greatest miler ever, will have to share the spotlight with a track full of MWC talent.
That's also when BYU will steal the days and the meet. Well, unless coach Franklin's diabolical plan to foil the Cougars' bid for their 11th consecutive men's league crown somehow comes to fruition.
"We need to convince BYU that the meet has been moved to Gallup," said Franklin. "We need them to make a left turn somewhere and end up in Gallup. Then we might have a shot at them."
Actually, it might be best if both the Cougars and the TCU Horned Frogs make a left turn at Albuquerque and end up at another site. The Cougars are expected to roar to the 2010 MWC men's outdoor crown with TCU's speed nipping at their heels.
"BYU is the class of the field," said Franklin. "They have good people everywhere in every event. TCU will make a strong run. They'll have six guys in the finals of the 100 (meters) with a UNM guy and someone else in there.
"If we have a great day, we could get second, but that depends on what TCU's sprinters do. On the women's side, we are looking at four, five, six."
The BYU women are looking for their eighth overall MWC title and their second straight. Fortner is a strong favorite in the heptathlon and should give the Lobo women the early lead. Then BYU's depth and balance should push the Cougars to dual titles.
Emanuel is looking to give the Lobos blue-ribbon points at both 1,500 meters and 800 meters. The two-time reigning NCAA Indoor champ at 1,500 meters is favored in that run. He also was the MWC Indoor champ at 1,500 and 800 meters and will look to grab those titles outdoor.
"I managed to win them both indoors, so I'd like to do it again," said the UNM senior. "It's going to be tough to win both because there are a lot of good 800 meter guys.
"I'm racing my teammates in the 1,500, so I can't lose to them. I'd never live it down. I'm ranked No. 1 in the 1,500, so I guess I should win, but I haven't even run an 800 (outdoor) this year, so we'll see what happens."
UNM's David Bishop might be Emanuel's biggest challenge at 1,500. Emanuel has a 3:38.70 this year and Bishop has clocked in at 3:43.73. One teammate Emanuel won't see at 1,500 is Chris Barnicle, who was hoping to run both the 10,000 and the 1,500.
"Chris wants to run against Lee, but it's not going to happen. And what happens if Barnicle beats Lee," laughs Franklin. "It would cause all kinds of problems for me."
Barnicle's points should come at 10,000 meters where he has clocked in at 28:10.59. Like Emanuel, Barnicle could be pushed by a Lobo. Keith Gerrard has a 28:42.51 this season. The UNM men's side also should get quality points from Wilson, Jacob Kirwa, Richard York, Lamaar Thomas and De'Vron Walker.
Thomas will be Franklin's "guy" in the 100 meters surrounded by all that Frog speed. Archer will be a favorite at 10,000. Gibson and Senior should challenge at 1,500 and Senior is tough in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.
Franklin says UNM's quality points should make an impact at the NCAA level. "We are looking to get BYU at the national level," he said. "The points spread out and we have a chance to get them there.
"It's great for us and for Albuquerque to have the meet here. We are in finals' week and last year it was up in Wyoming and that caused some problems with kids taking final exams. We're not staying in a hotel and if the kids come out relaxed and have some fun, it should be a positive thing having the meet here."
This is UNM's second time to host the MWC Outdoor Championships. The Lobos also hosted in 2003. At last year's MWC championships, two men's records were broken, while 17 men's and women's performances ranked among the top-five in MWC championships history. BYU won seven individual titles.
Live stats will be available online by visiting TheMWC.com and GoLobos.com.
Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former Associate Sports Editor and sports columnist for The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org