June 24, 2010
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
New Mexico's 2009-10 season of track was a history-making campaign dotted with Lobo headliner names such as Emanuel, Fortner, Young, Thomas, Senior, Kirwa, Barnicle and, of course, Joe Franklin.
Naturally Franklin, a three-time Mountain West Coach of The Year during the seasons of cross country, indoor and outdoor track, ho-hums his contributions for this dynamic year of running, jumping and throwing.
"I just drive the bus," said Franklin.
If so, Franklin points this Lobo bus in the right direction and drives it through many a finish line and qualifying mark. If he keeps up this pace of success, the University of New Mexico might feel obligated to buy Franklin a Lear Jet to get his Lobos around during the 2010-11 season.
Franklin's Lobos keep getting better and better, and the rival coaches of the MWC took notice of the UNM bus driver by awarding him Coach of The Year honors in men's cross country, women's cross country and outdoor track.
If we weren't worried that Franklin might get a big head and demand a captain`s chair for his bus, we would mention that he also was Coach of The Year for the NCAA Mountain Region during the outdoor season.
"The kids do the work and they had a great year," said Franklin. "Everything is progressing and we are doing it the right way."
The right way produced right away for Franklin's Lobos in the fall of 2009 when the Lobo men and Lobo women gave the school its first-ever sweep in the Mountain West Cross Country Championships.
Maybe it doesn't get any better than looking in your rearview mirror at the rest of the MWC teams -- and maybe it does! The Lobos went on to the NCAA Championships, both cross country squads finished ahead of their ranking, and New Mexico posted its best combined finish in school history.
That combined score was No. 4 in the nation among the 18 schools that advanced both a men's and women's squad to the NCAA Championships. That history-making total pushed UNM ahead of such schools as Stanford, Virginia, Syracuse, Duke, Brigham Young, Colorado, Georgetown and Arizona State.
The Lobos' indoor and outdoor seasons weren't too shabby either. The Lobos' Lee Emanuel and Sandy Fortner were named MWC Indoor Athletes of The Year and UNM went on to score a school-record 18 points at the NCAA finals -- good for eighth place. Emanuel was the NCAA Indoor Champion at 1,500 meters and Fortner reached the NCAA podium with bronze in the pentathlon.
In outdoor track, Emanuel was the MWC Male Athlete of The Year. The Lobos scored their most points in the MWC Championships on both the men's and women's sides. Franklin advanced a school record 26 athletes to the NCAA Regional.
"What this should tell all the great runners and athletes out there is that there is a reason they should come to New Mexico and there is a reason for this success," said Franklin.
"We are in one of the best endurance-athletic climates in the world. We have a big sky out here, it's blue almost all the time, and that sky is our limit. There is a reason world-class runners and world-class cyclists come here to train. This is truly an endurance Mecca.
"We're more than happy at UNM to show the United States and the rest of the world what we have here and why we plan to get to the top."
2009 New Mexico Cross Country
This isn't a season that can be wrapped up with two quick points, but that's a great way to emphasize the amazing season Franklin's runners threw out in the fall.
1. Best combined NCAA finish in UNM history.
2. UNM's first-ever sweep of Mountain West titles.
At the NCAA finals, the men's eighth-place finish was the best in program history. The women's 13th-place finish was the program's best in 28 years and second-best ever. That combined score was No. 4 in the nation among the 18 schools that advanced both a men's and women's squad to the NCAA finals.
"We just kind of did what we did all year," said Franklin of his runners' times.
This finish was icing on the cake considering a couple of weeks earlier the Lobos stunned the MWC by sweeping both titles in the league's finale. It was the school's first sweep ever and it was done on Utah soil. The Lobo men went on to finish third in the NCAA Mountain Region and the women placed fifth.
"Overall, it was a very good picture of where our program sits and a great indicator that we are going in the right direction," said Franklin. "We are continuing to make progress and our expectations are continuing to grow, too."
Franklin's expectations in his program aren't limited to outdoor achievement. Both cross country teams earned All-Academic Team honors from the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA). Seniors Rory Fraser and Chris Barnicle were two of just 58 NCAA male runners to earn individual All-Academic status with the USTFCCCA.
UNM also had 16 cross country runners named to the 2009 MWC Fall All-Academic Team: Chris Barnicle, David Bishop, Lee Emanuel, Rory Fraser, Keith Gerrard, Patrick Ortiz, Allen Pittman, Nicky Archer, Carolyn Boosey, Laura Bowerman, Ashley Gibson, Delyth James, Janna Mitsos, Lacey Oeding, Ruth Senior and Shawna Winnegar.
The Franklin men recorded the team's best GPA semester ever at 3.21 and the women's 3.30 marked the 12th straight semester that team has been 3.25 or higher.
"What that shows is that the support system to help Lobos achieve in the classroom also is at a high level," said Franklin.
2010 New Mexico Indoor Track & Field
One of Franklin's goals at UNM is to revive the excitement New Mexico fans once held for indoor track. He is getting closer to that goal every season thanks to the world class track that can be found in the Albuquerque Convention Center during the pre-outdoor season.
He also can thank a couple of Lobos for wowing local fans with their efforts indoors. Emanuel and Fortner were MWC Indoor Athletes of The Year. Emanuel won his second straight NCAA title at 1,500 meters. He was the first Lobo to win consecutive NCAA indoor crowns.
Emanuel also was the MWC champ at 1,500 and 800 meters. Fortner won the heptathlon. The Lobos scored a school-record 123.5 point in the MWC Championships and backed that with a school-record 18 points at the NCAA finals, good for eighth place. UNM notched consecutive Top-20 finishes for the first time since 1977-78.
2010 New Mexico Outdoor Track & Field
You are almost forced to begin a wrap of UNM's outdoor season with the name Lee Emanuel. The Lobo senior was the MWC's 2010 Outdoor Track and Field Athlete of The Year after winning the 1,500-meter title at the MWC meet and finishing sixth at the NCAA Championships.
Emanuel leaves Franklin's program with four All-American awards, the second Lobo ever to reach All-American status four times. UNM's Deanna Young also earned All-American honors at the NCAA finals for her work in the triple jump.
Franklin, both the MWC and NCAA Mountain Region Coach of The Year outdoors, sent a school-record 26 athletes to the NCAA Regional. The Lobos' 153 points in the MWC Championships held in Albuquerque were the most ever by the men in a league final. The women's 93.5 points was the most ever in a MWC meet. Barnicle (5,000), Emanuel (1,500), Richard York (decathlon) and Fortner (heptathlon) won individual titles at the MWC Championships.
UNM had 13 men named to the All-MWC Team: Chris Barnicle, David Bishop, Lee Emanuel, Sam Evans, Rory Fraser, Ty Kirk, Jacob Kirwa, Lamaar Thomas, De'Vron Walker, Kyle Walker, Alex Willis, Brian Wilson and Richard York.
"Our name is out there," said Franklin. "We are getting the best New Mexico kids to take a serious look at our program and we are known across the country and overseas. Athletes know that if they come to New Mexico and put in the work, the support system is there for them to excel on all levels."