The New Mexico cross country teams return to their home track as New Mexico hosts the upcoming Mountain West Championships on Friday at the UNM North Golf Course.
UNM has had plenty of success competing in the conference championships over the years. While the men had its consecutive Mountain West Championship streak snapped at six a couple of years ago, the women are still riding an active streak of nine straight conference titles.
The women’s team, which is ranked No. 2 in the country, could be poised to protect that crown. Sophomore sensation Ednah Kurgat has posted back-to-back individual wins at the Joe Piane Notre Dame Invitational, followed by another top performance at the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational.
Alice Wright has an individual win on the course, notching her first individual title there during the 2014 Mountain Region Championship, a release said. Charlotte Prouse and Weini Kelati have also run well, especially at the most recent meet in Wisconsin.
In fact, the quartet of Kurgat, Wright, Prouse and Kelati all posted times that were good enough to place them in the top-15 of the six-kilometer run.
But there will be plenty of quality programs competing for the conference title, with three top-25 teams on both the men’s and women’s draw.
"The lay person would not probably understand how deep our conference is," New Mexico head coach Joe Franklin said in a release. "...I would put our conference up against any in the country."
Franklin said it will be important for the team to continue running as it has all season, and don’t do anything that is out of character.
The men’s team is looking to improve after two years of not winning the Mountain West Championships. The Lobo men’s team won the MW championships from 2009-2014.
Senior Alexander Palm will have to lead the team. Palm is the men’s front runner and will have to step up to lead the team, as he has been the most consistent scorer for the squad this season.
The other men that will be running are Josh Kerr, Jonny Glen, Jacob Simonson, Linton Taylor, Tyler Valdez, Michael Wilson, Taylor Potter and Jared Garcia.
The Lobo men could be best served by implementing pack running in order to band together as they compete against UNM rival teams. The ranked men’s teams that will be at the meet are No. 9 Colorado State, No. 17 Air force and No. 19 Utah State, with Boise State also receiving votes.
For both squads, the likely key to success will be keeping the time spreads to a minimum. There is much ground to be gained if the fifth-scorer, or even a non-scorer, can finish low enough to affect the overall score of other schools.
It would probably be nice to have bragging rights over the rest of the teams in the conference, but the overall objective is to get both teams to peak at the right time heading into the meet of the championship season.
The top two finishing schools at the NCAA Mountain Region Championships will automatically qualify to compete in the national championship.
While the team may want to keep the top competitors legs fresh, regionals are two weeks away—there’s no reason why UNM can’t take a run at the conference crown along the way.
The 2017 Mountain West Championships are scheduled to begin at 10 a.m., with the women starting things off. That run will be followed by the men’s eight-kilometer event, which is slated for a 10:45 a.m start time. According to golobos.com, the event will be broadcast on the Mountain West Network.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Daily Lobo.
Robert Maler is the sports editor for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers basketball, football and tennis. He can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @Robert_Maler.