The New Mexico track and field team turned in impressive performances at the 2017 NCAA Division I Outdoor Championships, and the future seems bright with some of the competitors set to return next season.
Sophomore Josh Kerr, junior Alice Wright and senior Sam Trigg each earned All-American accolades by finishing in the top eight of their respective events.
Graham Thomas was unable to advance to the finals in the men’s steeplechase, finishing 20th in the preliminary round with a time of 9:01.75.
Head coach Joe Franklin lauded the way the student-athletes competed at Hayward Stadium in Eugene, Oregon, and said it was a “special day” for New Mexico track and field in a recent release.
One of the highlights included a championship run by sophomore Josh Kerr. He took home an individual national championship title by taking the top spot in the men’s 1,500-meter run with a time of 3:45.03.
Kerr said he was confident heading into the competition and put in the work to make sure he was prepared to make a move when he needed.
“I’ve done a lot of research on some of these guys,” Kerr said of the other runners in the 12-man field. “I used all that experience to maneuver myself through that round.”
The sophomore sensation also took home an individual title in the men’s mile run at the indoor championships earlier in the year. His sweep in the mile and 1,500-meter events was the first since 2009, a release said.
Kerr seemed to attribute a lot of his early success to the UNM coaches and trainers that have helped guide him along the way. He described Franklin and the coaching staff as “brilliant” and said the coaches were a major factor in his decision to attend New Mexico.
On the women’s side, New Mexico saw Wright run her way to All-American honors with her second consecutive second-place finish in the women's 10,000-meter event.
She completed the event in 32:42.64 and become the first female athlete in school history to earn three straight All-American accolades, according to a release.
Wright was in the lead for much of the latter stages of the race, but was eventually passed up by Charlotte Taylor of San Francisco, who held on for the first place finish at 32:38.57.
The ability of Wright to continually showcase her talents on the biggest stage is something that appeared to garner the attention of her head coach.
“To be consistent at an elite level for so long in distance running is very rare,” Joe Franklin said in a release. “And Alice is now the most consistent runner in the NCAA.”
Wright said there is a measurable difference when competing at Hayward Stadium in front of such a big crowd. She said it was a great atmosphere and she tried to imagine they are all cheering for her, regardless of whether or not that was actually the case.
Her second-place finish earned New Mexico eight points in the standings, allowing UNM to finish in a tie for 32nd in the women’s overall team score standings.
The junior runner is no stranger to the big stage, as she was also a key component of the 2015 National Championship that the women’s cross country team brought home.
Despite the fact that many faces on the team have changed, there are other things mimic the consistency Wright exhibits on the track. She said although there are obviously different people on the team, the team dynamics and togetherness are something that are staples of the program.
“It is definitely different being one of the older ones,” she said. “I get on really well with everyone on the team and that hasn’t changed. I feel like we are all really close and we have potential to do really well next year.”
Wright said, in some ways, she still feels like the 18-year-old freshman that joined the team several years ago, but she has grown into what most would view as a leadership role. Her experiences could be a key ingredient to maintaining the success of the program.
Senior jumper Sam Trigg capped things off by leaping into eighth place with a mark of 52 feet, 4 3/4 inches. That mark earned All-American honors for the senior in the men’s triple jump event.
Trigg and Kerr combined to tally 11 team points on the men’s side—good enough to put New Mexico in a tie for 23rd place overall.
Florida edged out Texas A&M by two points with a team score of 61.5 to secure the top spot, while the host-school Oregon scored 64 points and held off Georgia by an even slimmer margin (1.8 points) for the women’s title.
Kerr said his future goals include competing in the Olympics and hopes to do so in the 2020 Summer Games. He also plans to run in the trials of the upcoming 2017 IAAF World Championships, which are being held London, England.
Wright said her immediate plans include making another title run in cross country and returning next year to hopefully break through with an individual national championship in the women’s 10,00-meter run.
Robert Maler is the sports editor for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers football and men’s and women’s tennis. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @robert_maler.