Stevens: Lobo Track/Cross Country 2011-12 Season Review
June 22, 2012
New Mexico Lobos Track Program's 2011-12 Season Review
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
The self-proclaimed "bus driver" - Joe Franklin - has done it again. He has aimed the two-headed bus called New Mexico Lobos Track & Cross Country in the right direction and pushed it further up the NCAA hill of success.
Franklin's Lobos once again won conference titles, won an NCAA individual national title, produced multiple All-Americans and did it with a smile on their faces - while also performing at a high level in the classroom.
The low-stress, high-results environment that swirls around Franklin's programs once again make New Mexico a destination place for athletes wanting to achieve in and out of the classroom.
2010 NEW MEXICO CROSS COUNTRY
Is there a better place in the nation in which to run long distance? New Mexico has the altitude and the Lobos have Joe Franklin, who swept Mountain West Coach of The Year awards on both sides for the third straight year.
Franklin's women might have stolen the show, a bit, in the fall, but that doesn't mean the Lobo men weren't standing in the spotlight, too. The men also had more of a flair for the dramatic.
In the closest title fight in conference history, Lobo men's cross country team squeezed out and gutted out a three-point win over runner-up Air Force. That win handed UNM a third consecutive sweep of the men's and women's Mountain West cross country titles.
"Our third sweep further emphasizes to all the great runners out there that New Mexico is truly an endurance Mecca at the world-class level," said Franklin. "There is a reason athletes come to New Mexico and find success."
The Lobo women had more of a ho-hum race as they powered to their fourth consecutive title by 23 points. The rumor that Franklin made his women run backwards the last mile to make the event sporting is not true. Maybe next year!
Franklin wasn't the only individual Lobo to be handed a trophy as UNM also swept the individual titles on the course. Ross Millington and Ruth Senior were named 2011 Mountain West Athletes of the Year after their league championships. Senior won her title by 12.6 seconds and UNM had four of the top seven women runners in the event: Natalie Gray (4), Kirsty Milner (6) and Sarah Waldron (7).
The Lobo men went into the MW meet with Nicholas Kipruto and Sam Evans benched with injuries but Millington was joined in the top ten by Sean Stam (4) and Pierre Malherbe (9). That trio made it possible for Patrick Ortiz and Allen Pittman to finish 18th and 19th and hand UNM the title. UNM had six runners from New Mexico help make the championship charge.
"To have those local guys help us win a championship and keep the tradition alive is just tremendous," said Franklin, who works hard to put the top New Mexico runners in Lobo gear.
On the women's side, Senior, Gray, Milner, and Waldron were all named First Team All-Mountain West, and Imogen Ainsworth was Second Team, while on the men's side Millington and Stam were both First Team and Malherbe was Second Team.
The Lobo women went on to add an NCAA regional crown to their 2011 resume and finished in the top ten (9th) at the NCAA championships. UNM had four runners in the top 100: Ruth Senior (41) Natalie Gray (81), Kirsty Milner (91) and Imogen Ainsworth (94).
Seven Lobos earned All-Mountain Region recognition from the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA): Senior, Waldron, Milner, Gray, Ainsworth, Millington and Stam.
The Lobos named to the Academic All-Mountain West Team (Fall) were: Pierre Malherbe, Patrick Ortiz, Allen Pittman, Sean Stam, Imogen Ainsworth, Kaitlyn Barry, Kirsten Follett, Natalie Gray, Kirsty Milner, Josephine Moultrie, Sarah Waldron, Shawna Winnegar.
For the third consecutive year, the University of New Mexico men's cross country team was honored with public recognition by the NCAA for having an APR score in the top 10 percentile for its sport.
2011 NEW MEXICO INDOOR TRACK
The ultimate goal for any athlete in an individual event is to win a national championship. UNM's Kendall Spencer, a sophomore from San Mateo, Calif., grabbed a national indoor title and set a school mark with a long jump of 26 feet, 3.5 inches.
Spencer came into the meet with the fifth best indoor mark in the nation and literally leaped past his competition. Spencer's national title was the first for UNMs since Lee Emanuel won gold in the mile in 2010.
Spencer was named the Mountain West Men's Indoor Athlete of The Year and also was an NCAA First Team All-American.
The Lobos had six individual champions at the 2012 Mountain West Indoor Championships: Spencer (long jump), Ross (triple), Gabe Aragon (800), Millington (mile), Moultrie (mile) and Shirley Pitts (400).
2011 NEW MEXICO OUTDOOR TRACK & FIELD
The ultimate goal of a national title almost fell into a Lobo lap again at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, but Floyd Ross was literally just a few inches short. However, to be a national runner-up and an All-American is a huge honor and accomplishment.
Waldron was the fifth Lobo to compete at that distance in the national finals. She also was named to the CoSIDA Academic All-District 7 Women's second team.
Ross was national runner-up with a jump of 54 feet, six inches which added eight points to UNM's team total. It was the best finish for a Lobo in that event since UNM's Art Baxter won in 1967 with a 52-4.25 effort. UNM's school mark is Dwayne Rudd's 54-8.75 leap set in 1984.
"Floyd is a guy of last jumps," Franklin said. "He made it to the finals on his last jump. They take nine to finals and he did it on his last jump. In the finals, his first two jumps were average at best, and on his last jump, he had a two-foot PR (personal record)."
UNM also had 17 athletes named to the All-Mountain West Team, an honor that goes to the top three finishers in each event at the league championships. Conference champions Beejay Lee and Sam Evans (1,500) topped the group for their victories in the 200 and 1,500 meters, respectively.
Also named were Nicholas Kipruto (10,000), Django Lovett (High Jump), Logan Pflibsen (Pole Vault), Floyd Ross (Triple Jump), Kendall Spencer (Long Jump, 4x100), Sean Stam (10,000), Lamaar Thomas (4x100), De'Vron Walker (4x100), Richard York (decathlon), Nathalie Busk (Pole Vault), Shirley Pitts (400-meter), Marin Schweigert (High Jump), Precious Selmon (100-meter Hurdles), Ruth Senior (10,000-meter), and Sarah Waldron (5,000-meter).
"It was another solid year of Lobo track," said Franklin. "Our reputation continues to grow and we continue to attract the best athletes in the U.S. and the world.
"The top athletes in New Mexico and the nation are taking a long, hard look at our program because they know we provide the support system for them to excel both athletically and academically. For the local kids, they get to do in in front of friends and family."
Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former Associate Sports Editor and Columnist for The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.