The New Mexico women banded together to notch an impressive win over a strong field on Friday, Oct. 13 at the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational, with three runners finishing in the top 10.
UNM sophomore Ednah Kurgat set the pace for the rest of the pack, earning her second-straight individual win after being the fastest woman on the course the previous meet.
She said her focus coming into this meet was how the team would perform, but capturing the top position as an individual probably helped set the tone for her whole team.
“My main goal wasn’t to win, but to make my team shine,” Kurgat said in a release. “But I tried to do the best possible I could.”
She also picked up an individual win at the Joe Piane Notre Dame Invitational on Sept. 29 and followed that performance up by clocking a time of 19:23.2 on Friday in Wisconsin, just over 16 seconds better than the next closest competitor.
Kurgat is the first Lobo to finish with back-to-back individual top performances in consecutive meets since senior teammate Alice Wright did the same at the Mountain West and NCAA Mountain Region championships last fall, a release said.
Wright finished in fourth place with a time of 19:45.1 and Charlotte Prouse rounded out the top-10 finishers for UNM at the meet, with a seventh-place time of 19.54.3.
The No. four and five spots were crucial to garnering the team win, as three schools placed all five scorers in the top 60 — New Mexico, San Francisco and North Carolina, which finished in that order in the standings.
UNM’s Weini Kelati was able to run into 15th place and Alondra Negron completed the scoring with a 60th-place run of 20:54.6. Coincidentally, Kieran Casey was able to place 69th in the 6-kilometer race, better than many of the school’s scorers. Although Casey didn’t score for UNM, her performance helped affect the available points.
The UNM women scored 87 points, easily outpacing second-place San Francisco and North Carolina State, which had 126 and 169 points, respectively.
Taking top honors at the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational means the nation’s No. 3 ranked women’s team is likely well on its way to making a return to compete in the NCAA Championships.
The top two teams in each regional championship automatically qualify, leaving 13 at-large bids up for grabs.
The men’s team will probably need to rely on one of those potential at-large spots, as they finished 26th overall at the meet.
Alexander Palm was the only Lobo on the men’s side to crack the top 100, finishing the 8-kilometer race in 24:02.7. The team finished with a total score of 651 — well behind an impressive team score of 50 for Northern Arizona.
The next two scorers from UNM finished nearly 55 seconds after Palm. Sophomores Johnny Glen and Josh Kerr essentially crossed the finish line together at 24:57.1 and 24:57.2 to come in 131st and 132nd place.
Head coach Joe Franklin would probably still like to see a closer spread from both squads, as the teams continue to prepare for the upcoming championship season.
The Lobos will return home to host the 2017 Mountain West Championships at UNM North Golf Course on Friday, Oct. 27 with a projected start time of 10 a.m.
Robert Maler is the sports editor for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers basketball, football and tennis. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Robert_Maler.
Tyrell Natewa is a freelance sports reporter at the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers men’s and women’s cross country and track and field. He can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @Daily Lobo.