The New Mexico track and field team is accustomed to competing at a mile high above sea level.
UNM sent four contestants to the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships at The Convention Center, a familiar place for each of the athletes. The athletes demonstrated a positive reaction to a familiar place, crowning two All-Americans in the process.
“It’s been a great day,” UNM head coach Joe Franklin said. “The crowd has been phenomenal. It’s been electric in here… I’m sure happy for everyone. It’s just a good day.”
All four athletes were automatically named to the second team All-American list while only the Luke Caldwell and Kendall Spencer were able to finish in the top eight in their respected events granting them All-American honors.
Luke Caldwell was able to place sixth overall in the nation with his personal best, 13 minutes, 35.54 seconds (after altitude conversion) in the 5,000 meter run. His time shattered the previous school record of 13 minutes, 43.20 seconds set back in 2010 by Chris Barnicle. Caldwell has now been awarded All-American honors six times between cross country and track.
“I was feeling good. I was feeling tired, but good,” Caldwell said. “I’m pleased I scored some points and got another All-American.”
In the same race, teammate Adam Bitchell finished just late of achieving first team All-American honors with a converted time of 13 minutes and 47.87 seconds. The ninth place finisher said that the All-American spot was just out of his reach.
“It was a great race. I was just happy to make it to nationals,” Bitchell said. “I had a goal to be All-American and I was one place off it… I gave it my best shot and that’s all I can do.”
UNM was able to crown an All-American in the only field event that they represented in the championships. Spencer did not come near his 26 foot 3 ½ inch school record and NCAA championship mark that he set back in 2012. However, his 25’ 1 ¾” leap allowed him to finish in eighth place, snagging another All-American.
“It’s great to start my team off in a great direction,” Spencer said. “To finish in the top eight, I’ll take it.”
Elmar Engholm finished with a mile time of 3:59.71. The sub four minute mile time set Engholm in eighth place in the heat, but Friday’s time wasn’t enough qualify him for the final race on Saturday.
Engholm will have pleanty of more opportunities as the sophomore from Sweeden has shown promising results in his first year competing in the indoor track and field events.
The Lobos collected four points on Friday afternoon, their total for the entire meet.
Oregon claimed the title for both the men and women’s track and field team. The male athletes for the Ducks hadn’t won a title since 2009 while the women claimed their fifth championship in a row.
The women were barely able to squeak past the Texas Longhorns’ track and field squad with a final score of 44 to 43.5. The males on the other hand won by a much wider margin collecting 62 total points. Arkansas was the runner up as they posted a respectable 54 points.