Sometimes it is all in the name. And when that name happens to be Notre Dame — one of the most well-known colleges in the country — a typical track and field meet starts to carry more weight.
New Mexico Head Track and Field Coach Joe Franklin said having the Fighting Irish in town will make Saturday’s New Mexico Team Invitational that much more important.
For the first time since 1992, UND will be in the state of New Mexico for a regular-season sporting event in any sport.
“Our meet this weekend is with some outstanding competition… Just having the Irish come out is a big deal to us,” Franklin said.
“It’s a team scored competition with some of the best teams in the county. It’s going to be some phenomenal competition.”
UNM’s Ridge Jones qualified to the finals of the men’s 60 meter dash with a solid time of 6.75 last Saturday at the Cherry & Silver Collegiate Invitational. The men’s 60 meter dash will once again be an event to watch with three of the top sprinters in the nation at the New Mexico Team Invitational this Saturday at 11 a.m. in the Albuquerque Convention Center.
Franklin said he invited his good friend Joe Piane — who is also the head track and field coach of the Irish — to have his team take a trip to Albuquerque. Piane accepted the invitation and the meet quickly started to garner attention from other top schools.
Air Force, Arizona State, LSU, Nebraska, TCU, UCLA and Utah State will be the other seven teams joining the Lobos and the Irish at the Albuquerque Convention Center. This will mark the first time that LSU has made a trip to the Land of Enchantment for a regular season sporting event in 12 years.
Franklin said it is because of UND that the New Mexico Team Invitational has some of the elite competition in the nation coming to Albuquerque.
“The Irish carry a national name, a national brand… once we got them, then LSU and Nebraska come in,” Franklin said. “Then it’s Arizona State and UCLA. It easily becomes the best meet in the country hands down.
“Notre Dame brings something special to the meet. It adds a little snazz to it.”
For the men and women, the distant races could become the highlight of the meet. On the men’s side, UNM, Air Force and UND all qualified for the 2013 NCAA Cross Country Championships. As for the women, the Lobos and the Irish both competed at the NCAA Championships.
“We’re going to try to make an attempt at some NCAA qualifying marks in the mile. Some people are afraid to do that when you’re at altitude but we’re going to give it a shot,” Franklin said. “Last weekend there were some incredible performances and that hass lead us to take a shot this weekend.”
The men’s 60 meter dash will once again be an event to watch this weekend with three of the top sprinters in the nation — ASU’s Ryan Millus (No. 5 in the NCAA) and Tatum Bernard-Taylor (seventh) and UNM’s Ridge Jones (19th).
Franklin said most of UNM’s athletes will compete this weekend and that this meet will be used as a measuring stick to see where the Lobos are against top competition.
“Quality and depth. That’s why we hope that we can knock off some of these teams,” he said. “We have tended to get away from that (scoring meets). We’re doing it and we’re going to get after this weekend.”
New Mexico Team Invitational
Albuquerque Convention Center