Cross Country Aims to Keep Calm and Carry On at NCAA Regional

Nov. 7, 2012

NCAA Mountain Regional Championships - Fort Collins, Colo.

When/Where: Friday, Collindale Golf Course, Fort Collins., Colo.
Women: Noon MT — six kilometers 
Men: 1 p.m. MT — 10 kilometers 

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For New Mexico's cross country teams, this weekend might be a good time to take a page out of the United Kingdom's book: “Keep Calm and Carry On”.

With the NCAA Championships on the horizon, that's about the best they can do.

The Lobos' nationally ranked cross country teams are heading to the NCAA Mountain Regional Championship in Fort Collins, Colo., this Friday as they look to punch their tickets to the national championships in ten days.

New Mexico, the owner of solid championship credentials for both the men and women, essentially need to stay focused and run well in order to make it to the NCAA Cross Country Championships in Louisville, Ky.

“You just want to go through, get done what you need to get done to get to the next round,” said New Mexico head coach Joe Franklin.

Since the Lobos have already registered championship-caliber results, they won't be looking for anything remarkable and won't be pushing for anything special when the No. 17 women compete Friday at noon MT and the No. 16 men at 1 p.m. MT.

In the past, this weekend needed to be remarkable and special for New Mexico to advance to the national championships.

But this year, all the Lobos need to do is keep calm and carry on.

“A top-four finish on the men's side and a top-three finish on the women's side is relatively safe,” Franklin said. “There's always a chance that things go wrong because you're dependent on other regions.”

If things go as planned, however, the Lobos and their top-notch résumé won't need to be dependent on anything or anyone.

They can just run their race and make it to Louisville.

Looking to lead the Lobos onward are a pair of conference champions in Lacey Oeding and Luke Caldwell. Both claimed the Mountain West's individual title and Cross Country Athlete of the Year last month at the MW Championships, and both are poised to produce another strong showing at Collindale Golf Course on Friday.

Oeding will be joined in the women's 6-kilometer run by Josephine Moultrie, Charlotte Arter, Shawna Winnegar, Imogen Ainsworth, Kirsten Follett, and Chloe Anderson.

A solid crew of runners, the women earned five All-Mountain West nods in Las Vegas at the conference meet, including three on the First Team in Oeding, Arter and Moultrie.

For the men, Caldwell will run in the men's 10K alongside three other top-notch runners in Sean Stam, Patrick Zacharias and Adam Bitchell, all of whom were All-MW selections and leaders throughout the 2012 campaign.

Josephine Moultrie is one of the Lobo women's top runners.

The men will also run the Mountain West's Freshman of the Year Elmar Engholm, as well as proven athletes Sam Evans and Donovan Torres.

But despite all the firepower the Lobos bring in, the mission is to stay focused and advance.

“I think just a good team effort for men and women helping each other gets us to the goal of making the national championship,” Franklin said.

With a keep-calm-and-carry-on outlook, solid finishes are to be expected from the Lobos in their formidable region, which includes three nationally ranked men's teams and two nationally ranked women's teams, not including UNM.

With Colorado (No. 2 men, No. 24 women), Brigham Young (No. 7 men), Weber State (No. 13 women) and Northern Arizona (No. 18 men) vying for a spot at the NCAA Championships, New Mexico will be tested.

But if the Lobos can follow the national ranks and run their races, they are solid position for the national championships.

“The top two automatically go, and then it's at-large after that,” Franklin said of the NCAA's selection process.

The top finishers at the nine regional meets automatically advance to the NCAA Championships. After that, the NCAA will chose at-large teams based their wins over other teams and their 'A' squads.

Since the Lobos raced well at some high-quality meets earlier in the year at the Notre Dame Invitational and the Wisconsin adidas Invitational, New Mexico has done enough to qualify if it does well at the Regional meet, which is hardly unprecedented

The Lobos have posted strong performances at the Regional round the past few years, as the men have advanced to national championship three straight years and the women four straight years.

Since Coach Franklin's first year 2007, the Lobo men and women have placed outside of the top five only once (women finishing sixth in 2007), and hope they can continue their run of success.

“I just want to get through … If a win happens, it's great,” Franklin said. “But at some level, just make it to the next round because that's what relevant.”

That, and keeping calm and carrying on.