Lobos Heading to Air Force Triangular to Beat Falcons, Bears

April 11, 2013

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — When the Lobos head to Air Force this weekend, they’re also going back to middle school.

But, for New Mexico head coach Joe Franklin, Friday’s mano-a-mano showdown has one goal: winning.

“I like to call it middle-school racing,” he said. “Just go win races”

The University of New Mexico’s track and field team is taking on Air Force and Northern Colorado at the first Air Force Triangular this Friday at the Cadet Outdoor Track and Field Complex in Colorado Spring, Colo.

The Lobos—who haven’t competed in a triangular meet in over seven years—are primed for some head-to-head action in which they can gain experience in one thing: winning events.

“This one is not going to be about times or distances, it’s about winning races,” Franklin said.

New Mexico turned in a less-than-stellar performance at the last outdoor scoring meet in which it competed, as its men’s team took third and its women’s seventh at the 2012 Mountain West Outdoor Track & Field Championships.

That meet, which was hosted by Air Force, spurred Franklin into sending his best athletes back to Colorado Springs.

“We’ll have to fight to figure out a way to beat [Air Force] head-to-head on the men’s and women’s side,” he said. “That’s why we’re doing it.”

Air Force, which boasts the nation’s 41st-ranked men’s team according to the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA), is considerably stronger on the men’s side than the women’s, which checks in at 142nd in the nation.

In comparison, the Lobo men are ranked 32nd by the USTFCCCA, while the women are tabbed at 104th.

Nonetheless, the Falcons are shaping up to be a staunch opponent in the Lobos’ first triangular meet since the Cardinal & Gold Invitational against USC and Texas A&M on April 1, 2006.

“The Air Force guys never quit,” Franklin said.

Zach Smith has been trending up, and is aiming higher yet vs. Air Force.

For the Air Force men, a majority of their strength comes from their field athletes, which includes some nationally viable pole vaulters like Mountain West-leader Cale Simmons.

Along with Simmons, Air Force is paced by three more vaulters in the top-three in the conference (second-ranked Joey Uhle and Dylan Bell and Cort Rogers, who are tied for third) and the conference leader in the high jump, Rex Kobi.

The Falcons’ mid-distance and distance crews are also competitive, and include MW-pacesetters Alexander Lindsey in the 800-meter run, Zach Perkins in the 1500 and Matt Bell in the 10000.

However, the New Mexico men match-up well with Air Force, especially on the aggregate.

While both schools compare favorably to each other in the sprints and mid-distance, the Lobos have both talent in the horizontal jumps that is unmatched by the Falcons and also athletes right behind Air Force in a number of events.

Kendall Spencer, the reigning MW Men’s Outdoor Athlete of the Week, leads the conference in the long jump, and has Zach Smith right behind him in the head-to-head rankings.

Ty Kirk also leads the MW in the triple jump, holding more than a three-foot advantage over the nearest Falcon in the ranks.

Runners Derek Montoya, Alex Herring, Gabe Aragon and Patrick Zacharias also can contend with Air Force’s prowess on the track.

The women’s side favors the Lobos slightly more, as New Mexico carries advantages over Air Force in a vast majority of the track races.

Sprinters Shirley Pitts, Tawsha Brazley, Zoe Howell and Kayla Fisher-Taylor are all in strong position, while the Lobos distance crew of Imogen Ainsworth, Chloe Anderson, Shawna Winnegar, Kirsten Follett and Kendra Schaaf are right alongside.

In the field, Air Force holds decided advantages in the high jump and throws, but is countered by Lobos Amber Menke and Margo Tucker in the pole vault and Yeshemabet Turner and Casey Dowling in the long jump.

Northern Colorado, out of the Big Sky Conference, is not ranked, but has notable athletes in men’s high jumper Trevor Evanson and women’s heptathlete Alisha Allen.

Still, regardless of the opponents, Franklin understands the dynamics of head-to-head competition, which parallel championships meets in the number of competitors and the goals.

“When you get to championships, they’re sit and kick or they’re sloppy races,” Franklin said. “People don’t run fast in conference championships. It’s all about winning races.”

Which is why the Lobos are heading back to middle school.

Field events begin at 2 p.m. MT, while the running events are slated to get underway at 3:30 p.m. Check GoLobos.com after the meet Friday for a full recap.