Lobos Return To Colorado Springs For 2003 MWC Championships
UPCOMING The University of New Mexico track and field team looks to wrap up a fine indoor season with a strong showing at the 2003 Mountain West Conference Indoor Championships this weekend at Cadet Field House in Colorado Springs, Colo. The competition gets underway with the mens and womens pentathlon on Thursday, Feb. 27. Field and running event preliminaries and finals begin on Friday, Feb. 28 and conclude on Saturday, Feb. 29.
New Mexico finished fifth in the mens standings last season with a score of 53 points. Meanwhile, the women placed seventh, just 14.5 points out of fifth, with 51 points. UNM returns a pair of indoor all-MWC athletes in senior Keren Sari-Bentzur and junior Mark Johnson. Sari-Bentzur scored 16 points in 2002, finishing fifth in the triple jump and third in both the pentathlon and long jump to earn all-conference honors. Johnson led the team in scoring, finishing with 11 points on a second place finish in the pentathlon, seventh place finish in the triple jump and an eighth place showing in the long jump. Brigham Young captured its third-straight indoor title with a score of 175 points, while Colorado State knocked off the Cougar men 192-183 to win its first league title.
While some Lobos will be attempting to join or solidify their position in the national championship field, the remainder of the team will use this weekends competition to build towards a much-anticipated outdoor campaign. The outdoor-oriented Lobos will open the spring season at home in Albuquerque when they host the 13th annual Modrall Sperling Don Kirby Memorial Invitational (March 20-22). Then following an extensive coast-to-coast travel schedule, New Mexico will welcome its seven conference foes back to Great Friends of UNM Track Stadium for the 2003 Mountain West Conference Outdoor Championships (May 14-17).
MEET INFORMATION/RESULTS Complete information and results of the 2003 Mountain West Conference Mens and Womens Indoor Track & Field Championships are available at the official athletic department website of the Mountain West Conference:
LAST TIME (Sevigne Husker Invitational) LINCOLN, Neb. -- The University of New Mexico men team turned in several outstanding performances on the track in its regular season finale on Feb. 15, the Frank Sevigne Husker Invitational, at the Bob Devaney Sports Center. Sophomore Matt Gonzales picked up his second victory of the year in the 3,000 and junior Chris Garofola set a new school record in the 60m dash to pace the surging Lobos.
Gonzales clocked a season-best time of 8:18.35 to cruise to a six-second victory in the 3K. As usual, sophomore Nick Martinez was just off the lead, finishing a strong third with a season-best time of 8:25.10. In the short sprints, Garofola continued his stellar season. The Fort Washington, Pa. Native advanced to the finals of the 60m dash with a time of 7.01 in the prelims. He then placed seventh in the elite finals field, clocking a time of 6.96 to break Larry Davis two-year-old school record.
The Lobos also received strong performances in the middle distance events from junior Sean Flaherty and senior transfer Mike Pestorich. Flaherty finished eighth in the mile run, recording a team season-best time of 4:15.89, over 10 seconds lower than his previous best. Meanwhile, Pestorich turned in a time of 1:54.77, the fastest on the team this year, to finish ninth in the 800. Redshirt sophomore Ben Ortega completed a daunting double in the 5,000 and 3,000-meter runs. Ortega recorded a personal-best time of 14:43.65 to finish seventh in the 5K after taking ninth in the 3K (8:35.40). Finally, the mens 4x400m relay team of Garofola, Pestorich, senior Nick Lott and sophomore Isaac Burgener finished fifth (3:19.22), while freshman Dan Feltman led the UNM effort in the field with his sixth place performance in the long jump (21-11.50).
Sophomore transfer Bridgid Isworth led a solid performance by the split squad of New Mexico women. Isworth finished second in the pole vault, clearing a height of 12-08.25. Sophomore Amber Nolte finished tied for ninth in her second pole vault competition of the season with a mark of 10-08.75. Fellow sophomore Amanda Barnes recorded a new personal best throw of 44-08.75 to take sixth in the shot put. On the track, sophomore Erin Teske was eighth in the 200 (26.99), while freshmen Sandra Maxwell (59.01) and Kimilia Davis (59.22) finished ninth and 11th, respectively, in the 400m. Junior Sarah Gonzales clocked a time of 11:04.37 to finish 10th in the 3,000 in her 2003 season debut.
CLIMBING THE MOUNTAIN WEST New Mexico positioned itself well among the conference event rankings during the indoor regular season and will look to cap a strong season with a solid performance in Colorado Springs, Colo. for the MWC Indoor Championships.
The Lobos currently have athletes ranked among the MWCs top-10 23 times in 18 different mens and womens events, including both the mens distance medley (1st) and 4x400m 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) and Jr. Branden Bennett (No. 3 - pole vault). Points are awarded for the top-eight finishers in each event at the MWC Championships, while the top-three finishers earn all-conference honors.
SWIFTER, HIGHER, STRONGER Under the direction of third-year head coach Matt Henry and his staff, the 2003 Lobos have continued to improve their indoor performances. This season the Lobos have eclipsed the top marks of a year ago in 15 events, including nine on the mens side alone. The following is a breakdown of the improvement the men and women have made this winter on their top event marks of the 2002 indoor season:
Men (9 events) 60m: (7.08 ~ 6.96, -0.12 sec.) 3,000m: (8:29.79 ~ 8:18.35, -11.44 sec.) 5,000m: (14:43.76 ~ 14:43.65, -0.11 sec.) 60m Hurdles: (8.59 ~ 8.22, -0.37 sec.) 4x400m Relay: (3:18.68 ~ 3:16.51, -2.17 sec.) Distance Medley Relay: (10:15.74 ~ 10:11.60, -4.14 sec.) High Jump: (5-10.00 ~ 6-06.00, +8 in.) Pole Vault: (15-09.00 ~ 17-04.50, +1 ft., 7.5 in.) Long Jump: (21-11.50 ~ 23-05.25, +1 ft., 5.75 in.)
Women (6 events) 800m: (2:22.49 ~ 2:21.07, -1.42 sec.) 60m Hurdles: (9.07 ~ 9.00, -0.07 sec.) Pole Vault: (11-11.75 ~ 13-01.50, +1 ft. 1.75 in.) Shot Put: (43-00.50 ~ 44-08.75, +1 ft., 8.25 in.) Weight Throw: (42-10.75 ~ 46-05.00, +3 ft. 6.25 in.) Pentathlon: (3,727 ~ 3,771, + 44 pts.)
WHOS HOT? Chris Garofola Jr-2L Fort Washington, Pa. Head coach Matt Henrys preseason pick for the Lobos most improved mens athlete has more than fulfilled Henrys prognostication...has had a tremendous indoor campaign, displaying conference scoring potential in the 60m dash, 200 meters and 60m hurdles, where he is currently ranked among the MWCs top-nine in all three events...has set two indoor school records this season...broke Larry Davis two-year old mark in the 60m dash two weeks ago at the Husker Invitational, clocking a 6.96 in the finals of the event...also erased Justin Masseys two-year old record in the 60m hurdles, owns each of the Lobos top-five times and has recorded three top-eight finishes in the event this winter...is currently ranked sixth in the MWC in the 60m dash (6.96), eighth in the 60m hurdles (8.22), and ninth in the 200 (22.21)...is also a member of the Lobos second-ranked 4x400m relay team.
Matt Gonzales So-1L Santa Fe, N.M. Nick Martinez So-1L Pojoaque, N.M. 3,000-meter duo each clocked personal best times and continued to dominate their competition in the event at the Husker Invitational...Gonzales, currently ranked 4th in the MWC, earned his second victory of the season, recording a winning time of 8:18.35...Martinez, ranked 10th in the MWC, recorded his fourth top-four finish of the season, finishing with a time of 8:25.10...the duo has finished out of the top-three just once in six combined 3K races this season.
Amanda Barnes So-1L Carlsbad, N.M. Barnes continued her surge up the MWC shot put rankings with another strong performance at the Husker Invitational...the sophomore notched a season-best sixth place finish in the strong field and recorded a personal-best mark for the second-straight week...her top throw of 44-08.75 is currently ranked 10th in the MWC and is well over two feet further than she her best effort last indoor season.
Mike Pestorich Sr-Tr Fresno, Calif. Senior transfer from the University of California who has helped UNM offset the loss of 2002 top indoor 800-meter runner, Travis Clark...clocked the teams fastest 800 of the season two weeks ago at the Husker Invitational, finishing in 1:54.77...a graduate student in the UNM Sports Administration program, Pestorich is currently ranked 10th in the MWC and owns two of the teams top-five times in the 800...he also anchored the Lobos top-ranked and indoor record-setting distance medley relay team (10:11.60).
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 Mexicos 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 Henrys 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 mens and womens pole vaulting talent in the Mountain West Conference. This season, UNM has 14 athletes with vaulting ability, including six decathletes on the mens 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.
Unfortunately, Bennett, a two-time indoor and outdoor national junior college champion, has been sidelined with a heel injury since his tremendous UNM debut. In his first Division I pole vault competition on Jan. 24, Bennett cleared 17-04.50 to win the event at the Air Force Invite. Despite not competing in the past two meets, his mark is still currently tied for the 14th-best in the country. On Feb. 4 Bennett became the second New Mexico mens 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. UNM is considering petitioning the NCAA to allow Bennett to gain medical redshirt status for the 2003 indoor season as he continues to recover from his injury. Meanwhile, true freshman Chris Ashcraft has also put himself in scoring position at the MWC Championships, currently ranked 10th in the league with a top mark of 15-11.00, which is also higher than any Lobo cleared last indoor season.
Isworth eclipsed the NCAA provisional-qualifying mark in each of her first three competitions. She soared 13-01.50 in first place finishes at two straight meets, at Air Force and at Washington States Cougar Indoor Invite, to open the season before placing second at Northern Arizona last weekend (12-10.00). In addition to surpassing the national qualifying mark by four inches, she has also shattered fellow sophomore Amber Noltes (Sparks, Nev.) 2002 indoor record by over a foot. Isworth, the 2002 Commonwealth Games bronze medalist, is ranked 11th in the most recent (Feb. 25) Dandy Dozen womens pole vault rankings.
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. Six new standards have been established this season, including a remarkable five school records set at the 2003 indoor season-opener, the Air Force Invitational.
On the womens 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 Noltes 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. Fishencord has gone on to improve on her own school record, which now stands at 46-05.00.
For the men, junior Chris Garofola smashed Justin Masseys 2001 record in the 60-meter hurdles, clocking a new standard of 8.22 in the finals of the Air Force Invite. The mens 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 at the meet. Garofola etched his name on the record books once again, eclipsing Larry Davis two-year old mark in the 60m dash with a time of 6.96 in the finals of the Husker Invitational. BBBBCCCCCCDDDDDEEEEEEF