UNM Visits Northern Arizona For Mountain T’s Indoor Invitational
UPCOMING The University of New Mexico indoor track and field season continues this Saturday, Feb. 8 at the annual Mountain T’s Invitational in Flagstaff, Ariz. The host Northern Arizona Lumberjacks will welcome New Mexico and a large contingent of Division I and Division II collegiate teams, including Arizona State, Baylor, CSU-Long Beach, UC-Riverside, Cal Poly-Pomona, New Mexico State, San Diego State and Southern Utah. The event gets underway at 9 a.m. (MST) at the J.L. Walkup Skydome.
The Lobos have traditionally enjoyed their winter trips to Flagstaff under head coach Matt Henry, recording some of the best marks of each season in the Skydome. Last year at the 2002 Mountain T’s Invitational, UNM athletes won five events and established season-best marks in 10 events. The year before, New Mexico also captured five event titles in Flagstaff. Senior Keren Sari-Bentzur won the long jump in 2002 and in 2001, recorded a UNM indoor record-setting mark of 19-11.00 in the event. Sophomore Amber Nolte also made her mark on the indoor record book with her record-setting height of 11-11.75 in the pole vault last season. Redshirt sophomore Ben Ortega captured the 3,000-meter race as a true freshman in 2001, while senior Nick Lott won the open 400m two years ago as a sophomore.
MEET INFORMATION/RESULTS Complete information and results of the Mountain T’s Invitational are available at the official athletic department website of Northern Arizona University:
LAST TIME (Cougar Indoor Invitational) PULLMAN, Wash. -- The University of New Mexico men’s and women’s track teams turned in another solid performance on Feb. 1 at the Cougar Indoor Team Invitational meet at the Washington State Indoor Practice Facility in Pullman, Wash. New Mexico captured three event victories, including the women’s pole vault where sophomore transfer Bridgid Isworth matched her NCAA provisional qualifying and school record-setting mark of 13-01.50.
The men’s team received another dominating performance by its 3,000-meter runners as sophomore Matt Gonzales led a 1-2-3 Lobo finish. Gonzales clocked a season-best time of 8:25.93, followed by fellow sophomores Ben Ortega (8:31.00) and Nick Martinez (8:40.25). The New Mexico trio, which finished 1-2-4 at last weekend’s Air Force Invitational, crossed the line nearly 15 seconds ahead of the fourth place runner.
New Mexico’s 4x400m relay team of senior Nick Lott, junior Chris Garofola, junior Matt Bishop and sophomore Isaac Burgener took home the third gold medal of the day, coasting to an easy victory with a winning time of 3:19.64.
Elsewhere in the women’s competition, senior Keren Sari-Bentzur finished second in the long jump with a leap of 19-02.00, just 2.5 inches behind former Lobo Angela Whyte of Idaho. The UNM 4x400m relay team also turned in a solid second place effort, finishing with a time of 4:05.88. Freshman Tiara Poland led the way on the track, clocking a season-best time of 1:00.51 to finish fifth.
In other men’s action, senior transfer Mike Pestorich and Bishop finished second and third, respectively, in the 800 meters. Pestorich clocked a time of 1:56.58, 0.1 seconds ahead of Bishop and just 0.69 seconds behind Washington State’s Justin Ireland. Bishop’s 4x400m relay teammates also had good days as Garafola finished third in the 60m hurdles (8.38), while Lott (50.72) and Burgener (51.20) were fourth and sixth, respectively, in the 400 meters.
RECORD BREAKERS After establishing four indoor school records last season, the New Mexico men and women barely let the ink dry before resuming their assault on the record book. Five new standards were set at the 2003 indoor season-opener, the Air Force Invitational.
On the women’s side, senior Keren Sari-Bentzur began the meet by bettering her own mark in the pentathlon with a score of 3,771. The score was 44 points higher than her 2002 record and 77 above her first record-setting score in 2001. Sophomore transfer Bridgid Isworth then eclipsed teammate Amber Nolte’s 2002 record in the pole vault with a mark of 13-01.50. Sophomore Jamie Fishencord also surpassed teammate Amanda Barnes’ year-old weight throw record with a toss of 44-03.25. Barnes, who became the first UNM woman ever to compete in the event last year, set the initial mark with a throw of 42-10.75.
For the men, junior Chris Garafola smashed Justin Massey’s 2001 record in the 60-meter hurdles, clocking a new standard of 8.22 in the finals of the event. The men’s distance medley relay team of sophomores Cameron Clarke, Matt Gonzales, Ben Ortega and senior transfer Mike Pestorich also surpassed the Lobos’ 2002 record time by over four seconds, clocking a time of 10:11.60.
CLIMBING THE MOUNTAIN WEST Although the indoor season is just a few weeks old, New Mexico has positioned itself well among the conference event rankings and will look to solidify its status in its next two meets leading up to the MWC Indoor Championships.
The Lobos currently have athletes ranked among the MWC’s top-eight 21 times in 15 different men’s and women’s events, including both the men’s distance medley (1st) and mile relay (3rd) teams. Other athletes ranked among the top-three in their respective events include: So. Bridgid Isworth (No. 1 - pole vault), Sr. Keren Sari-Bentzur (No. 1 - pentathlon, No. 2 - long jump), Jr. Branden Bennett (No. 1 - pole vault), So. Ben Ortega (No. 3 - 3,000m), Fr. Dan Feltman (No. 3 - long jump) and So. Ryan Voge (No. 3 - pentathlon). Points are awarded for the top-eight finishers in each event at the MWC Championships, while the top-three finishers earn all-conference honors.
VAUNTED VAULTERS Since teaming with Matt and Mark Henry three years ago, assistant coach Scott Steffan has worked to make the pole vault a marquee event at University of New Mexico. An all-conference decathlete himself, Steffan was a teammate of New Mexico’s greatest pole vaulter, Simon Arkell, who was a three-time All-American and six-time Western Athletic Conference champion from 1987-91. However, UNM had not had any athletes qualify for the NCAA Championships since Arkell and only had one vaulter on the roster when the Henry’s and Steffan took control of the program in June of 2000.
Three years later, the increased effort in recruiting and training has begun to pay dividends as New Mexico boasts some of the top men’s and women’s pole vaulting talent in the Mountain West Conference. This season, UNM has 14 athletes with vaulting ability, including six decathletes on the men’s side. Junior transfer Branden Bennett (Phoenix, Ariz.) and sophomore transfer Bridgid Isworth (Melbourne, Australia) have emerged as the clear leaders of the vault crew as both surpassed the NCAA indoor provisional qualifying mark in their Lobo debuts at the Air Force Invitational.
Bennett, a two-time indoor and outdoor national junior college champion, cleared 17-04.50 to win the event at the Air Force Invite. On Feb. 4 he became the second New Mexico men’s athlete under Matt Henry (David Lloyd - 400m IH - 2002) to earn a spot on the Trackwire Online “Dandy Dozen” national rankings, debuting at No. 10 in the pole vault. Freshman Chris Ashcraft has also put himself in scoring position at the MWC Championships, currently ranked ninth in the league with a top mark of 15-11.00.
Meanwhile, Isworth has soared 13-01.50 in two straight meets at Air Force and at Washington State’s Cougar Indoor Invite. In addition to surpassing the national qualifying mark by four inches, she also shattered fellow sophomore Amber Nolte’s (Sparks, Nev.) 2002 indoor record by over a foot. Isworth, the 2002 Commonwealth Games bronze medalist, moved up three spots to No. 6 in the Feb. 4 “Dandy Dozen” women’s pole vault rankings.
WHO’S HOT? Keren Sari-Bentzur • Sr-2L • Eshel Hanassi, Israel A stalwart multi-event athlete for the Lobos since 2001, Sari-Bentzur has shown no signs of slowing down this indoor season...currently ranked among the MWC’s top-10 in four events...is the league’s top-ranked pentathlete with her school record-setting score of 3,771 pts. at the Air Force Invite...established 2003 team-best marks of 19-04.00 in the long jump (2nd MWC), 9.00 in the 60m hurdles (T8th MWC) and 5-03.00 in the high jump (T10th MWC) en route to her record-setting pentathlon score...tied for the team lead with two event victories this season.
Chris Garofola • Jr-2L • Fort Washington, Pa. Head coach Matt Henry’s preseason pick for the Lobos’ most improved men’s athlete...has shown all-conference potential early this season in both the 200m and 60m hurdles...shattered his previous personal-bests in both events at the indoor season-opener...is currently ranked fifth in the MWC in the 60m hurdles (8.22) and sixth in the 200 (22.21)...broke Justin Massey’s two-year old record in the 60m hurdles...is also a member of the Lobos’ third-ranked mile relay team.
Ben Ortega • So-1L • Taos, N.M. Matt Gonzales • So-1L • Santa Fe, N.M. Nick Martinez • So-1L • Pojoaque, N.M. New Mexico’s trio of 3,000m runners have simply dominated their competition in their first two indoor meets...the threesome finished first, second and fourth at the Air Force Invite, then went 1-2-3 at the Cougar Indoor Invite with an average pack spread (time difference between the first and third finisher) of 8.47 seconds...after redshirting the 2002 indoor season Ortega has returned to lead the team with a personal-best time of 8:25.17 (3rd MWC)...an all-MWC honoree in the event as a true freshman, Ortega won the even at the Air Force meet and was second at Washington State...after finishing the 2002 indoor season ranked 22nd in the event, Gonzales is currently the league’s fifth-ranked 3K runner with a top time of 8:25.93 en route to a victory at WSU...Ortega and Gonzales are also members of the Lobos’ top-ranked and school record-setting distance medley relay team...meanwhile, Martinez is currently ranked seventh in the MWC with a top 3,000m time of 8:27.79 after finishing the ‘02 indoor campaign ranked 20th in the league (8:37.90).
Ryan Voge • So-Tr • Hillsboro, Ore.
Mark Johnson • Jr-2L • Fontana, Wisc.
Dan Feltman • Fr-HS • Deming, N.M.
UNM appears primed to do some tremendous damage in the MWC pentathlon competition with its trio of outstanding multi-event athletes...Voge, Johnson and Feltman are currently ranked third, fourth and fifth, respectively, in the league pentathlon rankings...in his first season of collegiate competition, Voge leads the team with a score of 3,478 set at the Air Force Invite...the Hillsboro, Ore. native also owns the team’s top mark and is ranked fourth in the high jump with his leap of 6-06.00 during the AFA Invite pentathlon...Voge is also third on the team and 10th in the MWC in the long jump (22-01.75)...Feltman also leads the Lobos and is ranked third in the MWC with a top mark of 23-05.25...Johnson, the 2002 MWC runner-up in the pentathlon, is also currently ranked among the team’s top five in the 60m hurdles, high jump and shot put.