Two time zones, two days and two athletes making statements.
The UNM track and field team is a force to reckon with, especially runners Lee Emanuel and Rory Fraser, who broke UNM records over the weekend.
Fraser’s altitude-adjusted time beat Emanuel’s old record in the 3,000-meter run.
Emanuel, the reigning NCAA indoor mile champion, posted his second career sub-four minute while competing at the Indiana Relays Invitational on Friday. He shaved .29 seconds off his previous personal best, clocking in at 3:57.62.
Emanuel, who admitted he might have only one more opportunity to break the NCAA record held in the mile, said everything has to come together to trim seconds off a time.
“It’s all about getting in the right race at the right time,” Emanuel said. “We thought this race would be a lot quicker. It was meant to be paced through 1,200 meters. I did a lot of leading. I wasn’t planning on running from the front this week. That takes a lot out of you.”
Lobo coach Joe Franklin said Emanuel’s less-than-sparkling performance last week is an afterthought.
“The 800-meter is an off event for him,” Franklin said. “He runs the mile and 3K, but you have to do those races to work on different aspects, and I think it was completely irrelevant for him after his (third-place) finish a week ago.”
Even though he thrived on Friday, Franklin said Emanuel isn’t favored to repeat as NCAA mile champion this year.
“The NCAA favorite right now is a guy named Dorian Ulrey from Arkansas that ran in the world championships,” Franklin said. “I think it’s a good position for (Emanuel) to go in as the underdog.”
In Albuquerque, though, Fraser was playing top dog.
Fraser claimed the facility record on Saturday in the 3,000-meter run, clocking a time of 8:08.29. His altitude adjusted time of 7:56.31 eclipsed teammate Emanuel’s 2009 school record in the event by four-hundredths of a second.
Fraser said the heavy competition brought out the best in him.
“If it wasn’t for that guy, I wouldn’t have done that well,” Fraser said, who roared past Team USA Minnesota’s Patrick Smyth in the final 60 meters of the race. “Once I passed him, it was the first time I felt confident I could beat someone on a sprint finish. And the crowd was great. It felt like everyone was cheering for me.”
This was the final time Fraser planned on competing in the 3,000-meter run, since he was running it to prepare for the 5,000-meter run he’ll compete in Seattle during the next two weeks.
In all, Saturday’s meet was marked with widespread improvement, Franklin said.
Transfer Alex Darling returned this season after a year removed from competition. She said she moved back to New Mexico from Colorado to run under Franklin. Saturday, Darling finished third in the 800-meter run with a time of 2:12.88. She also put up a career-best in the mile, coming in at 4:58.
“I just need to get in a lot of races again,” Darling said. “I’m just setting myself up for bigger races and bigger meets. This just helps me become more confident moving forward.”
Franklin said all his athletes are fine-tuning as the season progresses.
“We’ve done great lately, and when you’re very fit you’re on a fine line between greatness and injury,” he said. “And it’s that fine line that we have to make sure they do everything right and control what you can.”