Outdoor Track: Golden Gonzales Leads Lobos At Midwest Regionals
LINCOLN, Neb. -- University of New Mexico sophomore Matt Gonzales shocked the Midwest Regional Championship field with a stirring victory in the 1,500-meter finals this afternoon at Ed Weir Track Stadium. The 5-5 Gonzales surged down the final straightaway and leaned past 6-3 Minnesota junior Martin Robeck to capture the Midwest title with a personal-best time of 3:42.83. Ranked 22nd in the regional 1,500 field entering the meet, Gonzales went undefeated in both the preliminary and finals heats on Friday and Saturday. His time was just 0.29 seconds shy of the 17-year-old UNM record, but was more than enough to secure his place in a second event two weeks from now at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Sacramento, Calif. The Santa Fe native ran an automatic qualifying time in the 10,000 meters on March 28 in his season-opening meet at Stanford.
This wasnt his specialty and we were just hoping to make it two rounds into the finals this weekend before nationals, said head coach Matt Henry. After yesterday though, when he ran the fastest preliminary time, we thought we had a good chance to finish in the top five. He did a good job of keeping himself in the race and then with about 150 meters to go, just outkicked everybody and got a tremendous victory.
Already the first member of the UNM mens team to compete at the national championships since 1998, Gonzales will attempt to become the first New Mexico mens outdoor All-American since 1991. Gonzales, who earned cross country All-America honors in 2001, is currently ranked fourth in the nation in the 10,000 and will now be among the title contenders in the 1,500 as well. Gonzales lowered his personal-best time in the 1,500 by nearly six full seconds, running the fastest time in the nation over the weekend. His top 10K time of 28:38.64 is the best by any American collegiate athlete this season.
"I never came in here expecting to win this race," said Gonzales. "Im a 10,000-meter runner, so I was running this just as a tune up. Im very excited about the win and honored that I was able to compete with my friend Jorge Torres of Colorado. Hes a great athlete."
In other UNM action on Saturday, junior Jason Barkermeyer finished 11th in the shot put with a throw of 54-09.25. The Belen, N.M. native improved six spots on his pre-meet No. 17 ranking in the event. Fellow junior Jimmy Minner also improved six places on his seed (22nd) in the javelin, finishing 16th with a mark of 188-09. Minner had thrown 204-feet on May 3 in El Paso, Texas to qualify for the meet. Freshman Chris Ashcraft closed his season well, placing 14th out of 40 competitors in the mens pole vault with a mark of 15-07.25. The former La Cueva High School standout was ranked 24th entering the meet with a qualifying vault of 16-04.75 on May 16 at the Mountain West Conference Championships in Albuquerque. Junior Erin Johnson capped her solid season by finishing tied for 19th in the high jump (5-05.25), while the mens mile relay team of senior David Lloyd, senior Nick Lott, junior Chris Garofola and junior Ahmed Raji was 17th with a time of 3:12.13.
Gonzales scored the only points for the Lobos over the weekend, helping the men finish tied for 21st (out of 33 teams) with 10 points. Nebraska capture the womens team title with 103 points, while Minnesota was the mens regional winner with 65.5 points. Complete results and postmeet quotes can be found at www.huskers.com.