Lobo Men Finish Third, Women Sixth At MWC Cross Country Championships
PROVO, Utah -- Sophomore Cameron Clarke and junior Matthew Gonzales finished third and fifth, respectively, to lead the University of New Mexico men's cross country team to a third place finish at the Mountain West Conference Cross Country Championships this afternoon at a frigid East Bay Golf Course in Provo, Utah. Despite the absence of injured all-conference runner Ben Ortega, New Mexico moved up two spots to earn its best finish at a conference meet since taking third at the 1991 Western Athletic Conference Championships.
Junior Sarah Gonzales repeated her 2001 performance, placing 16th to lead the UNM women to sixth place, a mere six points out of fifth. UNM was competing in its fourth-straight meet without 2001 NCAA Championship qualifier Jacquelyne Gallegos, who is out for the season due to injury. Top-ranked Brigham Young cruised to its fourth-straight conference title in the womens race with a perfect score of 15, while the 10th-ranked Cougar men edged No. 14 Colorado State 37-42.
Clarke improved 20 places from his finish at last years conference championship meet in Albuquerque to earn first team all-MWC honors for the first time in his career. The former Sandia High School standout covered the 8,000-meter course in 24:40.7, 23.9 seconds behind the winner, sophomore Kip Kangogo of BYU. Gonzales, who was second in 2001, finished in a tight pack of runners, just three seconds behind Clarke (24:43.5), to earn first team all-conference honors for the second-straight season.
Perhaps the real story for the men however, was the performances of juniors Nick Martinez and Sean Flaherty, and sophomore Chad Dawson. Forced to carry the bulk of the teams scoring load with Ortega out and freshman phenom Jeremy Johnson (38th - 26:10.0) hampered with a strained hip flexor, the trio responded with a clutch effort. Martinez improved 23 spots from his 2001 conference finish to take 19th (25:06.0), followed by Flaherty (22nd - 25:08.0) and Dawson (23rd - 25:24.5), who improved 16 and 10 spots, respectively, over last years finishes. The trios performance helped New Mexico drop 15 points off its 2001 total to finish with a score of 72, 22 points ahead of fourth place Air Force.
Meanwhile, on the womens side, Sarah Gonzales clocked the UNM womens fastest time of the season and also matched her personal-best by completing the 6,000m course in 22:16. Remarkably, her time and 16th place finish, just two spots from second team all-MWC honors, were identical to her performance in 2001. Freshmen Timmie Murphy (23:25.7) and Janice Tosa (23:33.7) finished 38th and 39th, respectively. Sophomores Vanessa Funston (23:55.1) and Racquel Ricci (24:19.5) were 43rd and 48th, respectively, to round out the Lobo scoring. New Mexico, which finished fifth last year with a score of 139 points, was also missing another injured scoring runner, freshman Karina Hill-Hurtado. BYU freshman Kassi Anderson was the individual champion with a winning time of 20:55.2.
While sunny, all of the athletes were forced to deal with a windchill temperature of 31 degrees at the time of the race.
New Mexicos men and women will return to action in two weeks, for arguably the biggest race of the year, the 2002 NCAA Mountain Region Championships, which will be held on Saturday, Nov. 16 at the UNM North Golf Course in Albuquerque. The top two finishing teams and top four individual runners, not on a qualifying team, will receive automatic bids to compete at the NCAA Championships on Nov. 25 in Terre Haute, Ind.
Complete team and individual results can be found at the following web address: