Cross Country To Hold Annual Intrasquad Race On Saturday
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- The University of New Mexico men’s and women’s cross country teams will hold their annual intrasquad race at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 24 in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains in northeast Albuquerque. New Mexico kicks off the 2002 season one week later on Aug. 30 in Santa Teresa, N.M., for the Lori Fitzgerald Invitational, hosted by the University of Texas-El Paso.
Fans and local media alike are encouraged to join third-year head coach Matt Henry and associate head coach Mark Henry as they preview one of the brightest young squads at the University of New Mexico. The group will meet at the Juan Tabo dam, which is located on the east side of Juan Tabo Blvd., just north of Montgomery Blvd. and south of Spain Rd.
New Mexico returns 20 letterwinners, including 15 on the men’s side, and will add 11 newcomers. Matt Henry, the 2002 Mountain West Conference Men’s Outdoor Track & Field Coach of the Year, also retains all three of his 2001 NCAA Cross Country Championship competitors. Last fall, juniors Matt Gonzales and Ben Ortega and sophomore Jacque Gallegos became the Lobos’ first national qualifiers since 1997, and the biggest contingent since 1988. Gonzales helped UNM take the next step in its return to national prominence when he finished 30th to become the first Lobo cross country All-American since 1982.
Like Henry himself, a Albuquerque native and former indoor track All-American, the 2002 Lobos will truly be a showcase of the best distance talent in the state of New Mexico. Thirty-four of the 35 athletes on the team are instate products. Junior Leighton Katsuda (Wailuku, Hawai’i) is the lone out of state runner on the men’s or women’s roster.
With no seniors and just three juniors returning, the young women’s squad will be a work in progress this season. Gallegos and junior Sarah Gonzales are both all-conference honor candidates and have solid national qualifying potential. Meanwhile, Gonzales and Ortega lead a large, promising men’s team this fall. With a core of 11 juniors, joined by a up-and-coming group of 12 sophomores and freshmen, Henry believes the squad has a legitimate chance to become the first at UNM to qualify for the NCAA Championships as a team since the 1988 men’s team.
Following the intrasquad race, the first test for the Lobos will be at the Lori Fitzgerald meet, which the UNM men won handily to open the 2001 season. Some of the top talent in the region will visit Albuquerque two weeks later, on Sep. 14, as they preview the UNM North Golf Course in the UNM Lobo Invitational. New Mexico will host one of the premier cross country competitions of the year, the 2002 NCAA Mountain Region Championships on Nov. 16 at the North Course. The 17 men’s and 18 women’s teams which comprise the Mountain Region are nationally known for having some of the finest distance runners in the country. UNM will also travel to some of the top meets in American this season with stops at the Stanford Cross Country Invitational, the (Oklahoma State) Cowboy Jamboree, as well as the NCAA Pre-National and MWC Championship meets.
For additional information on Saturday’s intrasquad competition, contact Alfredo Moreno at (505) 925-5524 or Matt Henry at (505) 925-5735.q