Gonzales Leads Lobo Men To 7th At NCAA Mountain Region XC Championship Meet
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- University of New Mexico junior Matt Gonzales finished eighth to lead the Lobo men’s team to a tight seventh place finish on Saturday morning at the NCAA Mountain Region Cross Country Championships at the UNM North Golf Course. New Mexico moved up two spots from its 2001 regional finish, but will be on the bubble when the at-large bids to the NCAA Championship meet are handed out on Monday.
UNM, which was receiving votes in the latest national poll, knocked off No. 26 Utah State, but fell six painful points shy of upending No. 15 Colorado State. A victory over the Rams would have likely ensured UNM’s at-large bid to the national meet on Nov. 25 in Terre Haute, Ind. New Mexico hasn’t sent a team to the national meet since 1988 men’s team automatically qualified.
Gonzales, who has been slowed for the past few weeks by a painful Achilles injury, bettered his 2001 regional meet time by nearly a minute (30:36) and edged Utah’s Delfino Arevalo for eighth, one spot higher than 2001, with a lean at the finish line. With his performance the Santa Fe, N.M. native guaranteed himself a spot in the NCAA Championship field, in which he finished 30th and garnered All-America honors last fall.
Sophomore Cameron Clarke improved 22 spots to finish 31st overall (31:05), but was unable to reel in CSU’s top-finisher, Josh Glaab, who finished three seconds ahead in 30th. Junior Ben Ortega turned in a courageous performance, finishing 37th overall (31:18). An automatic NCAA qualifier last season, Ortega had been riddled with a series of injuries over the past month and had not raced since Sept. 28. Fellow junior Nick Martinez, who had not competed with the Lobos’ top seven at the 2001 regional meet, finished a solid 51st (31:51), while battered freshman Jeremy Johnson was 59th (31:59) to round out the Lobo scoring. Junior Sean Flaherty and sophomore Chad Dawson were 72nd and 81st, respectively, in the 114-man field.
Despite a tremendous effort, the young New Mexico women’s team dropped two spots from its 2001 finish to take 14th overall. After being weakened by a week-long bout of illness, junior Sarah Gonzales placed 74th overall (23:11), 32 spots lower than the year before. Gonzales was followed by a pair of true freshman in Janice Tosa (78th) and Timmie Murphy (84th), while sophomores Vanessa Funston (97th) and Racquel Ricci wrapped up the Lobo scoring.
Top-ranked Brigham Young University cruised to another NCAA Mountain Region Women’s Cross Country title, while Northern Arizona upended No. 3 Colorado for the men’s championship on Saturday morning at the University of New Mexico North Golf Course in Albuquerque. BYU junior Michaela Manova was the women’s individual winner, just one second ahead of sophomore Ida Nilsson of NAU. Meanwhile, CU senior Jorge Torres defended his Mountain Region title in impressive fashion with a dominating wire-to-wire victory.
The defending national champion Cougar women placed all five scoring runners in the top-10 to finish with a score of 29 points, 37 ahead of Colorado’s third-ranked women. The Buffaloes earned the second NCAA Championship automatic qualifying spot with 66 points. Northern Arizona (90), Colorado State (99) and Weber State (105) finished a tight third, fourth and fifth, respectively. The top-five order of finish was unchanged from the 2001 Mountain Regional meet.
"We ran well and it was good competition," said BYU women’s head coach Patrick Shane. "We had great competition, it was really tight. We feel like we have the strongest region in the nation with ourselves, Colorado, Northern Arizona and Colorado State all being great teams. This was a fun course, great spectator course, and we enjoyed it."
NAU’s Nilsson, and her sister Johanna (6th), New Mexico State junior Rachael Cuellar (11th), Colorado State junior Katie Yemm (14th) and Montana State junior Ariana Lee were the only athletes not affiliated with BYU or CU to finish in the top-15.
"I liked the race because there were fans all the way through the course as we crossed through the loops," said Manova. "I really appreciated all the cheering and it was just really fun."
On the men’s side, freshman Nurani Sheikh and junior Travis Laird finished fifth and sixth, respectively, to help lead Northern Arizona to a 19-point victory over defending regional champ Colorado. Paced by Torres and his brother Eduardo (3rd), the Buffaloes held off No. 11 BYU (93-99) for the second automatic qualifying spot.
"I thought that we ran solid all the way through and I was very pleased with the team," said NAU head coach Ron Mann. "They went out well, but not too fast and I thought that they ran a good solid race throughout."
Jorge Torres bettered his 2001 Mountain Regional time by 1:19, finishing the 10,000-meter course in 29:33. Montana sophomore Antony Ford was a distant second, clocking a 30:11. Montana State senior Lyle Weese (4th), UTEP senior Bashar Ibrahim (7th), New Mexico junior Matt Gonzales (8th), Utah junior Delfino Arevalo and Montana State junior Casey Jermyn (10th) rounded out the top-10.
"Today I felt pretty well," said Torres. "I knew that there was a couple of good individuals out there, but I was just trying to run as minimal as possible, without overextending myself. I got a bigger lead than I wanted to, then just cruised it in the final five kilometers."