When Matt Henry was named head track and field coach at his alma mater in June of 2000, he was presented with a challenging task: lead what had been a stagnant program up the Mountain West Conference rankings and back to the national stage it starred upon throughout much of the 1960s, `70s and `80s.
Thanks to the leadership and dedication of Henry and his staff, the University of New Mexico now boasts one of the most improved track and field programs in the country. Built upon a foundation of elite in-state talent with a blend of premier national and international competitors, the Lobos continue to reach new heights each year.
Under Henry's tutelage 13 UNM athletes have gone to the NCAA Championship meet, giving New Mexico representation five years in a row. The Lobos have also earned four All-America and two Academic All-America awards, won 21 MWC event titles and claimed all-MWC honors 100 times since 2001. Henry's fellow coaches, meanwhile, have recognized his accomplishments, naming him MWC Coach of the Year for men's outdoor track in 2002 and again in 2005 for women's cross country.
An aggressive campaign by Henry and his staff have helped to make dramatic improvements to New Mexico's facilities and once again make Albuquerque one of America's top track and field destinations. A state-of-the-art indoor facility, located in the heart of downtown, officially opened in the winter of 2006 and the Great Friends of UNM Track Stadium was renovated that same year with a resurfaced oval, expanded field events area and landscaping improvements. This spring, a modern track and field scoreboard will be installed as well as Wall of Honor, sponsored by the UNM Track & Field Alumni Club.
For Henry and his twin brother, associate head coach Mark Henry, the chance to lead their alma mater's track and field program into the 21st century was a once in a lifetime opportunity.
"I'm really proud to be the track and cross country coach at UNM," said Matt Henry. "It's a dream that I thought would never come true. It's a privilege to be at the school where I got my education and competed. We may not have a big name yet, but there's something going right here at New Mexico. We have tremendous tradition here, we're very proud to be Lobos and we think this is a very special place to be."
2006: It was another banner year for the Lobos in 2006, a season that saw New Mexican pole vaulters Derek Mackel (Albuquerque Sandia HS) and Robert Caldwell (Socorro) advance to the NCAA Championship meet indoors and outdoors. The duo were the first UNM athletes ever to qualify for the national indoor meet in the same event and the first to do so outdoors in 30 years. Caldwell became the second Lobo to earn All-America honors in the event, tying for eighth place at the Indoor Championships.
During the spring, Mackel's meet record performance in the pole vault (18-01.00) led the men of New Mexico to a program-best 16th place finish at the NCAA Midwest Regional Championships. Caldwell finished sixth in the event, while rookie javelin throwers Katie Coronado (Ruidoso, N.M.) and Anthony Fairbanks (Albuquerque Highland HS) each finished seventh to become the first UNM freshmen to score at the regional meet.
The UNM women moved up to fifth at the new nine-team MWC Outdoor Championships, notching their highest conference finish outdoors since 1996. Seven Lobos and the men's 4x400m relay team earned all-MWC honors, while 12 athletes recorded NCAA regional qualifying marks in 10 different events during the spring. Freshman Sandy Fortner, meanwhile, was an NCAA provisional qualifier in the heptathlon. Three women's records also fell during the outdoor season.
Senior middle distance runner Frank Hemingway (Las Cruces, N.M.) capped the year by earning second team Academic All-America honors and was one of 13 D-I men's athletes awarded an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship.
In the winter of '06, the Albuquerque Convention Center quickly earn a reputation as America's best new indoor venue and the Lobos thrived in their new world-class facility. The UNM men (5th - 67 pts.) and women (5th - 57 pts.) matched their highest finish at the MWC Indoor Championships and had their best combined performance (127 pts.) in 15 years of joint appearances at indoor conference championship meets. New Mexico athletes earned all-MWC honors 10 times, including a program-record six medals for the women, and four athletes notched NCAA provisional qualifying marks. Five school records also fell during the season, including four on the women's side.
2005: In what proved to be one of the best seasons in the Henry Era, UNM unveiled its new indoor facility at the Albuquerque Convention Center and went on to a record-setting indoor campaign. The men enjoyed their best scoring output in 15 years at the MWC Indoor Championships and in his final NCAA Championships appearance before turning pro in the summer, senior Matt Gonzales earned All-America honors in the 5,000 meters (4th) in his debut at the national indoor meet.
Records continued to fall during the spring and the Lobo men (4th - 107.5) and women (6th - 64.5) had their best combined performance at a conference championship meet in 15 years. The year concluded with senior Amanda Barnes (Carlsbad, N.M.) and juniors Dan Feltman (Deming, N.M.) and Matt Keeran (Albuquerque La Cueva HS) giving New Mexico its largest contingent at the NCAA Outdoor Championship meet since 1991. It also marked the first time in 20 years that three in-state products represented the Lobos at nationals.
During the indoor and outdoor seasons, Lobo athletes combined to earn all-MWC honors 22 times and set 10 school records. Five athletes surpassed the NCAA provisional qualifying standard indoors, while 16 earned qualifying marks for either the NCAA national or regional championship meets outdoors.
2004: Despite the loss of several key competitors due to graduation or injury, the UNM men and women turned in many impressive performance throughout the year. The men's team, in particular, proved to be a surprising force in scored meets.
The Lobos had a strong fifth place finish in the 22-team field at Houston and swept the field at a rare quadrangular meet with victories over UC-Irvine, Southern Utah and host Northern Arizona. UNM capped the season with its best indoor conference meet score in 14 years.
Senior Mark Johnson ended a 13-year drought by becoming the first member of the UNM men's team since 1991 to capture an indoor conference title (heptathlon) and accounted for one of the Lobos' 6 all-MWC awards.
Twelve New Mexico athletes earned qualifying marks for either the NCAA national or regional championship meets during the outdoor season. At the MWC Championship meet the UNM men and women won four gold medals and earned all-MWC laurels eight times. Juniors Hank Baskett (high jump), Bridgid Isworth (pole vault) and Matt Gonzales (5,000m) all earned their first MWC victories, while junior, Amanda Barnes, won her second straight league shot put crown.
Though Isworth finished one spot shy of a trip to the national meet (6th Midwest Regionals), Johnson (deacthlon) and Gonzales (10,000m) went on to represent UNM at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. Gonzales finished fourth to become the first Lobo in 13 years to earn All-America honors back-to-back years. The relentless Gonzales kept UNM in the spotlight well into the summer with his spirited run at a U.S. Olympic team berth in the 5,000. After winning his preliminary heat in front of a live national television audience, Gonzales finished sixth in the finals, tops among collegiate competitors.
New Mexico's men and women combined to set 12 records during the 2004 indoor and outdoor seasons - the most in Henry's tenure. Gonzales became only the second Lobo since 1993 to etch his in the UNM men's outdoor record book, erasing an 18-year-old mark in the 5,000.
2003: New Mexico qualified two athletes to the NCAA Outdoor Championships as senior Keren Sari-Bentzur made her second appearance in the heptathlon and sophomore Matt Gonzales made his debut in the 10,000 meters. Sophomore Bridgid Isworth, meanwhile, became the first UNM woman under Henry to compete at the national indoor championships, finishing 12th in the pole vault.
Gonzales turned in one of the finest seasons ever by a New Mexico distance runner, finishing third in the at the NCAA meet to become the first Lobo to earn All-America laurels since 1996 and the first man to do so since 1991. Dominant at every distance of 1,500 meters or more, Gonzales clocked the fastest times in the MWC in both the 10,000 and 5,000 during the regular season, then shocked the Midwest Regional field with a stirring victory in the 1,500-meter finals. He also qualified for the USA Championships, finishing 11th in the 10K, just one week after his All-America run.
Sari-Bentzur capped her indoor career with one of the greatest conference championship performances in school history as she claimed the High Point Award (30 pts.) at the MWC Indoor Championship meet. She became the first UNM woman to win two events at an indoor conference meet, taking the pentathlon and long jump, earned all-MWC honors in the triple jump (3rd) and was fifth in the high jump.
On the year, New Mexico athletes earned all-conference honors 18 times and won four MWC event titles. Seventeen Lobos, including members of both the men's 4x400m and 4x100m relay teams, qualified for the NCAA Midwest Regional Championships.
2002: When the 2002 outdoor track season began, Henry had two simple goals in mind: perform well at the Mountain West Conference Championships and qualify some athletes to represent New Mexico at the NCAA Championships.
Mission accomplished. The UNM men had a breakthrough performance at the conference meet, earning Henry MWC Men's Outdoor Coach of the Year honors, while two of the Lobos' four provisional qualifiers were selected to compete at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
The Lobo men turned in their finest MWC performance ever, scoring in nearly every event en route to 125.5-point output (4th place). They improved by 34.5 points from their 2001 total, finished 23 out of third and scored more points in one meet than the team had combined in the five conference meets (114 pts. 1996-00), prior to Henry's arrival.
Overall, fifteen UNM athletes took home all-MWC honors, including 12 on the men's side. Senior Monique Harris won her third straight triple jump crown and sophomore Mark Johnson captured the decathlon title.
Junior Keren Sari-Bentzur and freshman Kelli Myers led New Mexico back to the NCAA Outdoor meet for the first time since 1998. Sari-Bentzur finished ninth with 5,285 points, just 36 out of eighth place and a place on the All-America team.
2001: In his first season at New Mexico, Henry led both the men's and women's track teams to their most successful conference meet performances in 10 years as the women finished fourth at the 2001 MWC Indoor Championships, while the men placed fourth at the outdoor championships. Henry's athletes also captured five conference titles, the most since 1991, and earned all-MWC honors in 12 events at the indoor and outdoor championships.
Junior Monique Harris captured her first MWC indoor triple jump title then won the outdoor TJ title for the second straight year. Sophomore Arline Smith swept the 200 and 400 meter crowns at the MWC meet to become the first double event winner for New Mexico since 1990. Freshman Ben Ortega, meanwhile, captured the 10,000 to become the first UNM men's conference champ in four years.
Lobo Distance Running Under Matt HenryAn outstanding middle distance man himself in the early 1970s, Henry has returned New Mexico to its traditional place among the nation's top distance running schools. Just a few years after his return to UNM, Henry's homegrown track and cross country runners established themselves as one of the premier distance forces in the country.
Under Henry's tutelage, Santa Fe High School product Matt Gonzales has become one of America's top young distance prospects. Gonzales was one of most decorated runners in UNM history, earning All-America honors twice in cross country and three times on the track. He also led all collegiate runners by finishing sixth in the 5,000 at the 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials and was 11th in the 10,000 at the 2003 USA Championships.
Since turning pro two years ago, Gonzales has continued to train under Henry in Albuquerque. He placed second at the 2005 U.S. 10K Championships road race and went on to help Team USA notch its highest finish ever (3rd) at the `05 International Chiba Ekiden in Japan.
Henry's runners have earned a combined 27 all-MWC awards on the track in the distance and middle distance events, including 4 conference titles. The Lobos have set school indoor records in the 3,000 (women), 5,000 (men) and distance medley relay (men and women), and outdoor records in the 3,000-meter steeplechase (women) and 5,000 (men) during Henry's tenure. New Mexico has also earned all-MWC cross country honors 17 times, all-Mountain Region 11 times and sent six individuals and one team to the NCAA Cross Country Championships.
In 2004, Henry put together the finest cross country team in school history. Led by two All-Americans in Gonzales (2nd) and freshman Shadrack Kiptoo-Biwott (14th), the men of New Mexico placed a program-best ninth at the NCAA Championship meet. True to the blue collar character of the program, it was a dramatic late surge by the team's fifth scoring running, fifth-year walk-on Sean Flaherty (Albuquerque Manzano HS), that propelled the Lobos into the top-10.
Prior to taking over the cross country and track and field programs, Henry had been the head coach of the boy's and girl's track and cross country teams at La Cueva High School in Albuquerque since the school opened in 1986. While at La Cueva, he led the Bears to four straight boy's state track titles from 1997-2000, three state boy's cross country championships (1995-96, 98) and a pair in girl's cross country (1994-95). Henry's success earned him National High School Track Coach of the Year honors in 1999.
Matt and Mark Henry are part of a great lineage with extensive ties to the University of New Mexico. Their father, Gwinn "Bub" Henry, spent 30 years at UNM, most of that time as the Director of the Alumni Association. Bub and all five of his sons attended the University of New Mexico. Bub's father, Gwinn, was the Lobos' athletics director, head football coach and head track coach for three seasons from 1934-36. Gwinn Henry compiled a 16-12 record on the gridiron, including a Border Conference championship in 1934 with an 8-1 mark.
Track has long been a part of the Henry family. Gwinn Henry was declared the fastest man in the world in 1911. Matt's older brother, Pat, now in his third year at Texas A&M, was previously the head track coach at LSU, a program that captured 27 NCAA titles during his 17-year tenure.
Matt Henry was a four-year varsity letterman for the UNM from 1971-74, competing in the 440-yard dash and the 880-yard run. He was also part of the Lobos' "all-Albuquerque" two-mile relay team that earned All-America honors at the 1972 NCAA Indoor Championships. Henry's relay team captured back-to-back Western Athletic Conference titles in 1972 and `73, including a WAC record time of 7:34.70 in `72.
Henry, 54, received a bachelor's degree in Physical Education from UNM in 1975 and his master's degree in 1980. He and his wife, Lisa, have three boys: Kenny, 26, Kurt, 20, and Kyle, 18. Kenny ran at UNM and LSU, and is currently the head track and field coach at Albuquerque's Cibola High School. Kurt is a junior middle distance runner for the Lobos and Kyle is a rookie hurdler at UNM. Lisa Henry (formerly Lisa Chivario) also competed at UNM and was a silver medalist in the long jump at the 1971 AIAW national championship meet. She was also an assistant under UNM women's head coach Barbara Butler in the mid-`70s.