Lobo Classics: Women’s Cross Country runs away with first National Championship
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – While the achievement of winning a championship in any sport at any level is always impressive on its own merit, some are simply more impressive than others. Or, in the case of the 2015 University of Women’s Cross Country team, should we say, some are just plain dominant?!
Since coming to UNM in 2007, the resume that Joe Franklin has built as the head coach of both the men’s and women’s cross country and track and field teams is unrivaled. Specifically, the achievements that his women’s cross country teams have earned along the way are in a league of their own.
To-date since 2007, Franklin’s Lobo women’s cross country teams have won 12 Mountain West Championships (all consecutively), finished either first or second at the regional level in 10-straight years and have finished 10th or better at the National Championships each year since 2010.
As you would expect with that kind of perennial success, Franklin has racked up numerous Coach of the Year awards during that same time.
In fact, he has been named the MW Women’s Cross Country Coach of the Year 11-straight years dating back to 2008. Franklin has also been named the USTFCCCA Women’s Cross Country Regional Coach of the Year four times (2010, 2011, 2015, 2018) and has been twice named the National Coach of the Year by the USTFCCCA (2015 & 2017).
While all of those accolades that Franklin and his women’s cross country teams have garnered over the years at UNM are remarkable, the accomplishments of the 2015 team set the bar for the program and are the focus of this week’s Lobo Classics.
The year prior to 2015, the Lobo women’s cross country team had just secured their seventh-consecutive MW Championship, finished second in the regional championships and landed on the podium for the first time at the national championships after finishing third.
That strong finish in 2014 segued into the 2015 season where the expectations surrounding the program were seemingly at an all-time high. The Lobos entered the year preseason ranked No. 2 in the country, which was tied for the highest preseason ranking for the program since 2011. The Lobos were also returning three runners who scored in 2014 including All-American finisher Alice Wright. In addition to the returners, the Lobos bolstered their roster with the addition of four transfers including Courtney Frerichs, who was coming off a 13th-place finish at nationals a year ago and was already a two-time All-American at UMKC.
Despite all of those lofty expectations heading into the 2015 season, the Lobos tuned it all out internally by relying on this singular phrase from Coach Franklin, “Expect Nothing, Achieve Everything.”
With that mantra at the forefront of their minds, the 2015 UNM women’s cross country team silently went about their business, solely focused on being at their best when it mattered the most at the National Championships.
After that initial preseason ranking, the Lobos quickly ascended to the top of the rankings when the first regular season poll came out. It was the highest ranking ever for the program and the highest a women’s program at UNM had ever been ranked as well. The Lobos then went on to put a stranglehold on that top-ranking the rest of the season, ranking first each week leading into the National Championships.
Along the way to the National Championships, the Lobos claimed three team victories with wins at the Joe Piane Notre Dame Invitational, the Wisconsin Adidas Invitational and the MW Championships. All three of those team victories were done so in dominant fashion.
At Notre Dame, the Lobos scored 29 points and had all five scoring runners finish in the top-12. The closest to them at that event was NC State with 74 points. At Wisconsin, the Lobos placed all five scoring runners in the top-10 and scored 32 points. The next-closest team that day was Arkansas with 188 points. At the MW Championships, the Lobos secured their eighth-straight title after placing all five point-scoring runners within the top-7 of that race. The Lobos posted 24 points at those championships and Boise State was the closest with 71 points.
In the Mountain Region Championships, the final race before the National Championships, the Lobos did not win, but they finished second by the slimmest of margins to Colorado, 49-50. While they did not come away with the team victory at the region championships, the Lobos placed all five scoring runners within the top-15 and remained on track to carry their momentum over into the National Championships the following week.
With all of the external pressures surrounding the Lobos being the clear-cut and dominant No. 1 team throughout the entire season, the Lobos headed into the biggest race of the season holding true to the mantra, “Expect Nothing, Achieve Everything.” No one was going to just lay down and hand the Lobos the national championship, they were going to have to go out and earn it!
And earn it, they did for the program’s first-ever National Championship!
Just as they had all season long, the Lobos left little doubt in the National Championships as the Lobos scored 49 points and posted a remarkable margin of victory of 80 points as the next-closest team that day was Colorado with 129. That margin was the fifth-largest in NCAA history. Additionally, the point total was the lowest team score since 1982 when Virginia scored 48 points.
Fueling that point total disparity was the fact that all five of the Lobos’ scoring runners finished within the top-25. It was the first time since 2001 that a team had placed all five of its scorers in the top-25. With those individual finishes, the Lobos also became the first team since 2009 to have five All-Americans in a single championship.
Leading the way for the Lobos was senior transfer Courtney Frerichs as she placed fourth overall with a time of 19:48.0. The fourth-place finish for Frerichs was at the time a program-best at the National Championships. Not far behind Frerichs was Alice Wright. Wright followed up her All-American freshman race with another All-American performance finishing fifth with a time of 19:53.1. Junior transfer Rhona Auckland placed 13th with a time 20:07.1 while senior returner Calli Thackery added another All-American honor to her resume with a 15th-place finish and a time of 20:07.3. Senior transfer Molly Renfer rounded out the scoring for the Lobos as she finished 24th with a time of 20:17.5.
Remarkably the team spread for the Lobos was a mere 29.5 seconds, which was the lowest since the NCAA moved the distance of the championship race to six kilometers in 2000.
While the UNM women’s cross country team had come to achieve so much in the first seven years under head coach Joe Franklin, his eighth season at the helm in 2015, which culminated in the National Championship, represented a pinnacle achievement for the program and set the standard for which it continues to run towards to this very day.
Following that 2015 championship season, the Lobos won their second National Championship in 2017 and were runner-up in 2018. This past season in 2019, the Lobos finished fourth.
About Lobo Classics
The goal of the “Lobo Classics” series is to highlight some of the greatest moments in the history of UNM Athletics. These types of moments can consist of specific games, individual performances, record-breaking achievements or even entire championship seasons. It is our intention that during this period of uncertainty, we can bring some joy and happiness to our unwaveringly loyal fans that make up Lobo Nation!
As part of this endeavor, Lobo Athletics wants to make this an interactive project and are opening up for suggestions from Lobo fans everywhere. Fans can make suggestions that they would like to see highlighted in “Lobo Classics” by tweeting to @UNMLobos and using the hashtag #LoboClassics. Fans can also submit suggestions through email: firstname.lastname@example.org.