UNM Enters 2002 Cross Country Season With High Hopes
UPCOMING The University of New Mexico mens and womens cross country teams kick off the 2002 season, their third season under head coach Matt Henry and associate head coach Mark Henry, on Friday, Aug. 30 at the annual Lori Fitzgerald Invitational in Santa Teresa, N.M. The Lobos will battle two of their biggest regional rivals in the host UTEP Miners and New Mexico State, as well as several regional junior college squads.
Last year, the UNM men opened the season with a bang at the Lori Fitzgerald meet, dominating the field with 18 points, just three shy of a perfect score. New Mexico placed seven runner in the top-10, including winner Chris Orrell, en route to a 29-point victory over UTEP and 54-point win over NMSU. Meanwhile, the Lobo women finished second with 43 points, just 13 behind NMSU. Jacquelyne Gallegos enjoyed led the squad with a third place finish in her collegiate debut.
MEET INFORMATION/RESULTS Complete information and results from the 2002 Lori Fitzgerald Invitational can be found on the University of Texas-El Paso official athletic department website:
Lori Fitzgerald Invitational: www.utepathletics.com/xcountry&track/
LAST TIME (UNM Intrasquad Race) The University of New Mexico mens and womens cross country teams looked sharp in their annual intrasquad race in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains on Aug. 24. Head coach Matt Henry said he was impressed by the competition and efforts of his athletes as they tuned up for the upcoming 2002 season-opener.
Sophomore Jacquelyne Gallegos paced the womens team with a solid run. Fellow sophomores Racquel Ricci and Vanessa Funston and freshman Karina Hill-Hurtado also ran well. Meanwhile, freshman Jeremy Johnson led the mens squad with a strong performance, followed closely by sophomore Cameron Clarke and junior Matthew Gonzales. Junior Ben Ortega was held out of the race due to soreness in his knee.
2002 OUTLOOK The University of New Mexico cross country program has undergone dramatic improvements since head coach Matt Henry and his brother, associate head coach Mark Henry took the helm. In just two short years, the Henrys winning attitude, intense work ethic and deep New Mexico pride have changed the face of the program. What were once weaknesses have turned to strengths as UNM has once again become THE destination for the best talent in New Mexico, a state which has a long, proud legacy of distance running excellence. This season, with a large group of talented, confident runners, the hopes and expectations are the highest theyve been in a decade.
A year ago, Lobo cross country returned to the national stage with three national championship qualifiers, including New Mexicos first All-American since 1982. Twenty years later, with Matt Henry, the 2002 Mountain West Conference Mens Outdoor Track & Field Coach of the Year, leading 17 returning letterwinners and 17 promising newcomers, the men and women from the Land of Enchantment are primed to take center stage once again in 2002.
Women: With no seniors and just a pair juniors on the roster this fall, the young womens squad will be a bit work in progress this season. What the group lacks in experience though, it makes up for in talent and desire. Henry sees many similarities between this years womens squad and the 2000 mens team. With their strong core of dedicated runners, Henry believes that, like the men, the UNM women can develop into a deep, strong squad.
We tried to recruit some girls this year that were more serious about cross country and hopefully theyll help us, said Henry. Our womens team, like the men were two years ago, are very young. However, if theyre willing to work and believe in what were doing here, then theyre going to have success.
New Mexico returns its top-two runners from 2001, in junior Sarah Gonzales (Albuquerque, N.M.) and sophomore Jacquelyne Gallegos (Pojoaque, N.M.). Gonzales has the most Division I experience on the team and is a prime candidate to represent the Lobos at the NCAA Championships after her breakthrough last fall. The 5-1 Gonzales enjoyed the best season of her entire running career in 2001, leading the team in three meets, after running sixth on the squad throughout the 2000 season, and clocking the teams fastest two 6K times of the year. After finishing no higher than 21st as a freshman, she also notched three top-20 finishes, including a wire-to-wire victory at the UNM Lobo Invitational.
Sarah is a prime example of what this sport is all about, said Henry. Shes not overly talented, but she works extremely hard and its paid off for her. This is a young lady who came out of high school having never once gone to the state meet. Her winning a collegiate meet last year was probably the highlight of my coaching career.
Meanwhile, Gallegos enjoyed a stellar freshman debut in 2001, capped by an impressive performance at the NCAA Mountain Region Championships to become one of the youngest Lobos ever to earn an spot in the NCAA Championship field. She immediately established herself as one of the team leaders, pacing the squad in three meets and recording four top-20 finishes overall. Gallegos went on to have an outstanding track campaign as well and enters the 2002 season confident and ready to make her mark on the national stage.
She had an up and down season last year, which is really common for a freshman, but Jackie seems to know when to race, said Henry. Shes extremely talented, she had a great summer and were really looking for some great things out of her this fall.
Fellow sophomores Vanessa Funston (Albuquerque, N.M.), Racquel Ricci (Albuquerque, N.M.) and Laura Marquis (Albuquerque, N.M.) should all be valuable contributors as well this season. Funston competed in just two races last fall, but displayed excellent potential, running fourth on the team at both the MWC and NCAA Mountain Region championship meets. Ricci scored in just two meets last year, but put in a lot of work in the off-season and could be a real surprise in 2002. Marquis ran with UNMs top-seven in four races, scoring in two, and will be in contention for the top-seven again this fall.
Joining the squad this year are junior transfer Amanda Swann (Clovis, N.M.), sophomore track athletes Jaime Hall (Albuquerque, N.M.) and Brittany Robinson (Santa Fe, N.M.), and freshmen Lindsay Fagrelius (Farmington, N.M.), Karina Hill-Hurtado (Albuquerque, N.M.), Timmie Murphy (Farmington, N.M.) and Janice Tosa (Jemez Pueblo, N.M.). Swann brings additional collegiate experience to the squad after spending the past two years at Butler County Community College in El Dorado, Ka. Last fall, she helped BCCC notch a fourth place finish at the NJCAA Cross Country Championships and should be a valuable addition to the team in 2002. Murphy and Tosa are both former New Mexico state high school cross country champions, who could also make an immediate impact in their debut seasons.
Men: Its easy to see why Matt Henry believes his mens team is on the brink of something special this season. The Lobos return nearly all of their top runners from a year ago, including both NCAA Championship qualifiers in juniors Matthew Gonzales (Santa Fe, N.M.) and Ben Ortega (Taos, N.M). With a solid group of newcomers ready to join the mix, the New Mexico men enter the 2002 season with perhaps the most depth and talent theyve had in over 10 years.
Last year, I thought, regardless of who we added, that this group would have a chance to qualify for the national championships this fall, said Henry. With the people we have back, this year could be really special if we can do that.
The unassuming Gonzales returns to lead the team in its quest to become the first New Mexico squad to qualify for the national championships since 1988. Though standing just 5-5, Gonzales was a giant in 2001 as he turned in the finest season by a Lobo in nearly 20 years. A former All-American at Division II New Mexico Highlands, Gonzales capped his stellar season by placing 30th at the NCAA Championships to garner Division I All-America honors. After finishing second at the MWC Championships, Gonzales led all conference runners with his performance at the NCAA meet. He led the Lobos in their final five meets of the season, recorded four of the teams top-10 8K times and notched five top-10 finishes overall. This fall Gonzales is a legitimate conference title contender as he continues to establish himself as one of the premier distance runners in the country.
A second-team all-Mountain West honoree, Ortega improved 15 places to finish 11th at the NCAA Mountain Regionals and earn his first NCAA Championship berth. He finished among the Lobos top-three in six meets and ran side-by-side with Gonzales in the final four races, while clocking two of the teams top-three 8K times. Following another tremendous outdoor track season, Ortega dedicated himself to a world-class summer training regiment. The return of a stronger, faster Ortega, gives UNM an outstanding 1-2 punch a top its lineup.
Ben was very disappointed in his finish at the national championships, said Henry. Really, if Matt can be 30th, then Ben can be 29th or 31st. Thats how close they are. Both of them put in the best summer theyve ever had, which is exciting. Ben averaged over 120 miles per week and that was in Taos, up over 7,000 feet. When you see that, you know that hes got his mind set and hes going in the right direction.
A large group of talented returnees will also vie for the top-five scoring positions on race day. Sophomore Cameron Clarke (Albuquerque, N.M.) made a seamless adjustment from prep to collegiate competition last fall. He finished among the teams top-five in five meets and led all Lobo freshmen with four top-25 finishes overall. Clarke also notched the squads eighth-fastest 8K time of the year, the only freshman among the top-10.
When you look at Cameron Clarkes times and compare them to some of our older guys, when they were freshmen, you can see how much talent he has, said Henry. I have a lot of confidence in Cameron and I think he can get to the national championships and place in the top-30 as well.
Juniors Nick Martinez (Pojoaque, N.M.) and Sean Flaherty (Albuquerque, N.M.), and sophomore Chad Dawson (Kirtland, N.M.) will also be Lobos to watch in 2002. Martinez battled injuries last fall, but still finished among the teams top-seven in four meets. Flaherty established himself as an integral part of the mens team in his first full season last year, finishing among the top-seven in every meet and scoring in four races. Meanwhile, Dawson was a solid contributor throughout his debut season, finishing among the teams top-seven in four meets, including a fifth place performance at the MWC Championships.
Nick Martinez really had a great track season last spring and I think thats just the beginning of Nick exploding onto the scene himself, said Henry. Chad is still really young, but he is super talented and is not afraid of anybody. Even though hes a junior this fall, I still think that Sean is a late bloomer and is just now learning how to put it all together.
Jeremy Johnson (Albuquerque, N.M.) leads a group of talented freshmen who are looking to make an impact for the Lobos this fall. Johnson shocked the New Mexico prep circuit last fall when he won nine of 10 races in his first season of cross country competition. His only defeat came at the 5A state championships, where he finished second after battling a case of bronchitis. The state 3,200m champion on the track, Johnson should have a bright future at UNM.
He didnt win the state championship last year, but we feel that he was the best runner in the state, said Henry. He was the best on the track and he did that being hurt. Jeremy is healthy right now though and we really feel that he is going to help our team tremendously.
Fellow true freshmen Brendan Douthit (Taos, N.M.), Kendal Fortson (Los Alamos, N.M.), Aaron Trujillo (Pojoaque, N.M.), Brandon Vigil (Taos, N.M.) and James Yuan (Albuquerque, N.M.) could all emerge as key members of the squad this fall.
Schedule & Roster: The 2001 season saw Henry and his staff re-establish Albuquerque as one of the premier running locations in the West. New Mexico hosted the Mountain West Conference Cross Country Championships, the first conference cross country meet to be held in Albuquerque since 1974, to much acclaim. After the meet, which many of the leagues coaches described as one of the best conference championships every conducted, Albuquerque was quickly selected as the host city for the elite 2002 NCAA Mountain Region Championships. The meet, along with the annual UNM Lobo Invitational, will give New Mexico cross country fans a tremendous opportunity to see the homegrown Lobos compete against some of the nations premier teams. After competing on a course in West Albuquerque last year, the meets will move back into the heart of Lobo country on the campus of the University of New Mexico at the UNM North Golf Course.
Its right on campus and I like that, said Henry. Were the University of New Mexico, thats our golf course, and to be able to run there is going to be exciting. It will be better for the fans as well, because theyll be able to have more contact with the athletes. New Mexico is a distance state. More distance runners come out of this state than anything and I hope we have the entire state of New Mexico out watching these cross country meets.
In addition to the outstanding home slate, UNM will also have a challenging, top-notch road schedule this fall. Following the UNM Lobo Invitational, New Mexico travels to Palo Alto, Calif., for the elite Stanford Cross Country Invitational, followed by one of the biggest events of the fall, the Cowboy Jamboree in Stillwater, Okla., and the NCAA Pre-Nationals in Terre Haute, Ind. Henry said he believes a good showing by his Lobos at these premier meets could pay dividends when the postseason invitations are handed out.
Cross country works a lot like basketball in that you can get at-large bids to the NCAA Championships, he said. The strength of schedule can help you a lot. You have to go to Oklahoma State and Stanford, have people see you and say wow, New Mexico has a pretty good squad. Our conference has a lot to do with that too. Im not sure theres too many conferences in the country that have better cross country teams overall than the Mountain West Conference.
Like Henry himself, an 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-three of the 34 athletes on the team are in-state products. Junior Leighton Katsuda (Wailuku, Hawaii) is the lone out-of-state runner on either the mens or womens roster.
We have a lot of pride for the state of New Mexico, said Henry. When you step to the line with seven or eight people who youve known since high school, it helps you even more. You know that youre going into battle with a group of people that all have the same deep pride for the state of New Mexico that you do. For our athletes to be able to run through a crowd of our fans, knowing that theyre really cheering on their hometown team, it makes it a lot of fun.
2001 SEASON REVIEW After winning its first meet in 4 years last year, the UNM mens team won 2 meets in 2001, the Lori Fitzgerald Invitational (El Paso, Texas) and the Arizona State Invitational (Gilbert, Ariz.). The Lobos blasted regional rivals UTEP and New Mexico State at the Lori Fitzgerald, winning with a score of 18, just 3 points shy of a perfect score. A month later, UNM cruised to a 25-pt. victory over regionally ranked UCLA and No. 15 ASUs B team.
New Mexicos ability to run as a team was a key element of the squads success this fall. The mens top-3 runners finished an average of 49 seconds apart in the teams 6 meets, while the top-5 were separated by an average of 1:31, On the womens side, the top-3 runners were separated by 1:12 on average, while the top-5 ran an average of 2:03 apart.
UNM had 3 individual meet winners (Matthew Gonzales, Chris Orrell, Sarah Gonzales) this year and 13 top-5 finishes. Last season, no Lobo finished higher than 3rd and there were just 5 top-5 finishers on the mens and womens sides.
A group of 17 talented newcomers made an immediate impact on both the mens and womens teams in 2002. On the mens side, 3 of the squads top-7 runners were newcomers, led by sophomore Matt Gonzales, a transfer from New Mexico Highlands. Overall 9 newcomers competed for the mens team, combining for 13 top-25 finishes, including 7 top-10 finishes by Gonzales and freshman Cameron Clarke. On the womens side, freshman Jacquelyne Gallegos led a contingent of 8 newcomers, comprising 2/3 of the team. The new Lobos accounted for 12 top-25 finishes, including 2 top-15 finishes by Gallegos.
Sophomores Chris Orrell and Matthew Gonzales were each selected Mountain West Conference Mens Cross Country Athlete of the Week in 2001, the first Lobos ever to receive the weekly honor. Orrell was awarded after winning the Lori Fitzgerald Invitational, while Gonzales was recognized for his victory at the ASU Invitational.
Mens fastest 8K last year was a time of 25:40...best 8K this season was 24:19 and 10th-fastest was 25:34...meanwhile, the women ran 5 sub-23:00 6Ks this season, compared to 4 last fall sssttsssrrqqrrrqppoooonmziklmlllllllllmnooonnllkkkkllmmmlllkkkkkkkkkjiiihhgggffgghhhhjjjkkklllmnnfggggghhiijjjjjkkklljjjjkkjijjjkklllkkkkkkjjkkkkkkkljjkkkllljkklllkjjkkklllljjjjjjjjijjkjigfhhhi?jjjjklmnnmlkkkjjjjjjhiiikkkkkklljjjjjjjj