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New Mexico's women's cross country team looks to defend its 2021 NCAA Mountain Regional title.

Preview: Lobo XC set to host NCAA Mountain Regional Friday

by Evan O'Kelly

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The 2022 NCAA Cross Country Mountain Regional will converge on the UNM North Golf Course on Friday, as the region’s top competitors square off in a pair of races to determine advancement to the NCAA Championships.

A total of 356 runners from 20 different schools will be competing at the event, including 182 women’s runners and 174 men’s runners. “It should be a great event, and you have some of the most powerful teams in the country in the Mountain region,” said UNM head coach Joe Franklin. “It’s an incredibly deep group, and you’re probably going to see the Mountain teams finish very high at nationals.”

2022 NCAA Cross Country Mountain Regional

Friday, November 11 – UNM North Golf Course

11 a.m. – Women’s 6k Championship Race

Noon – Men’s 10k Championship Race

Live Results –

“Last time we had it here was 2015, and that was a pretty successful year,” Franklin said alluding to the women’s NCAA national title in the fall of 2015. “It is nice for us because we get to sleep in our own beds, and it is exciting to be able to run in front of family and friends. It’s going to be a great day, the weather is going to be awesome, and it’ll be a great venue to watch a cross country meet. This is one of the best spectator courses that I have ever been around.”

LOBO WOMEN LOOKING FOR 6TH REGIONAL TITLE, 15TH STRAIGHT NCAA BERTH: The reigning Mountain Regional champions, the UNM women will look not only to defend last year’s title but to claim their sixth regional crown overall. UNM first won the regional in 1981, before kicking off a dominant decade with titles in 2010, 2011, 2018, and 2021. UNM also finished as the regional runner-up seven times, from 2012-17 and again in 2019.

The Lobos, who enter Friday’s meet ranked No. 2 in the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association national poll, have already secured a berth into the NCAA Championships set for Nov. 19 in Stillwater, Okla. UNM will be seeking its third national title, after winning the event in 2015 and repeating in 2017.

Lobos XC Mountain Regional Championship Women’s Participants

Runner UNM PR (6k) Date Event
Amelia Mazza-Downie 19:37.3 10/29/21 Mountain West Championships
Emma Heckel 19:37.9 10/29/21 Mountain West Championships
Gracelyn Larkin 19:41.2 10/29/21 Mountain West Championships
Abigail Goldstein 19:44.2 10/29/21 Mountain West Championships
Ali Upshaw 19:46.0 10/29/21 Mountain West Championships
Samree Dishon 19:51.8 10/29/21 Mountain West Championships
Semira Mebrahtu Firezghi 20:25.7 10/28/22 Mountain West Championships
Samantha Valentine* 21:09.4 10/14/22 Nuttycombe Invitational

 *Indicates alternate runner

THE FIELD: New Mexico tops a field of perhaps the most stacked region in the country, with five of the top-10 teams in the latest USTFCCCA rankings set to compete on Friday in Albuquerque. The Lobos enter the meet ranked first in the region and second in the nation, trailing only North Carolina State in the latest national poll released on Nov. 1. New Mexico and Northern Arizona are projected to receive the region’s automatic berths into the national championships, while BYU, Colorado, and Utah are all listed in the hunt as well.

Nationally Ranked Women’s Teams at Mountain Regional (as of Nov. 9)

Ranking Team
2 New Mexico
4 Northern Arizona
8 Colorado
9 Utah
20 Colorado State
27 Utah Valley

 BUILDING OFF ANOTHER MW TITLE: Looking to build off their 15th straight Mountain West Championship on Oct. 28 in Laramie, Wyo., the Lobo women return an experienced cast to the course for the regional meet on Friday.

Coming off her second-straight Mountain West title, Amelia Mazza-Downie leads the way for the Lobo women with a PR of 19:37.3 minutes in the 6k. She will be competing in an NCAA cross country meet for the fourth time as a Lobo, after running in the 2021 regional where she placed 21st and in the nationals in the fall of 2021 and the spring of 2021.

Gracelyn Larkin took fourth at last year’s regional, and will be competing in her fifth NCAA meet including the national championships in 2019, the spring of 2021, and the fall of 2021. Larkin is coming off a fourth-place finish at the Mountain West Championships, and holds the team’s third-fastest PR in the 6k entering the meet with a time of 19:41.2 minutes.

Emma Heckel enjoyed success at last year’s NCAA meets, placing 11th in the regional and 18th at nationals in her debut collegiate season. The sophomore took third at the MW Championships, and holds the second-fastest PR in the 6k on the team at 19:37.9 minutes.

Although she did not compete on UNM’s Mountain West title team, Samree Dishon will be in the lineup Friday carrying a wealth of experience. Her 6k PR time of 19:51.8 minutes give the Lobos six different runners who have broken the 20-minute barrier in their careers, and she has experience at the regional meet taking 34th at the 2021 event.

Abigail Goldstein is set for her second regional in a UNM uniform, after placing ninth at the 2021 event with a time of 20:28.2 minutes. During her career at Harvard, Goldstein competed in two other regionals at the 2017 and 2018 Northeast Regional Championships.

Ali Upshaw placed 17th at last year’s regional event, running a time of 20:49.8 minutes. It was her debut NCAA regional race.

Semira Mebrahtu Firezghi’s first taste of NCAA competition came in the modified 2021 spring season, during which no regional was held. Firezghi represented the Lobos at the NCAA Championships that year, placing 116th with a time of 21:38.4 minutes. She is coming of a personal best of 20:25.7 minutes at the Mountain West Championships, as she was rewarded with second-team all-conference recognition two weeks ago.

Samantha Valentine, who is the team’s alternate option on Friday, has not competed in a previous regional championship.

The Lobo men’s team will compete in its first 10k race of the season, and for many of their runners it will be their collegiate debut in the distance. The team will look towards its veteran upperclassmen for leadership in the lengthiest race of the season. “On the men’s side we hope to improve from our Mountain West finish, and get an individual or two to the national championship,” Franklin said. “If we run well as a team, we have a chance to get pushed in.”

Lobos XC Mountain Regional Championship Men’s Participants

Runner UNM PR (8k) Date Event
Abdirizak Ibrahim 29:28.2 11/20/21 NCAA Championships
Kevin Mulcaire 31:17.0 3/15/21 NCAA Championships^
Awet Yohannes 32:09.2 11/12/21 NCAA Regional Championships
Nehemiah Cionelo 32:13.8 11/15/19 NCAA Regional Championships
Ethan Brouw  N/A  N/A  N/A
Jonathan Carmin  N/A  N/A  N/A
Yehonatan Haim  N/A  N/A  N/A
Joshua Galindo* N/A N/A N/A

 ^Mulcaire’s 10k PR occurred during his career at Oklahoma State | *Indicates alternate runner

THE FIELD: Six nationally-ranked teams on the men’s side are set to compete on Friday, including four top-10 teams in the latest USTFCCCA national rankings released on Nov. 1. Topping the regional field are BYU and Northern Arizona, who are ranked second and third, respectively.

Nationally Ranked Men’s Teams at Mountain Regional (as of Nov. 9)

Ranking Team
3 Northern Arizona
5 Air Force
9 Colorado
21 Montana State
T28 Colorado State

Cross country newcomer Kevin Mulcaire showed he was ready for the championship stage at the conference meet, as he led the Lobos with a 15th-place finish at the event. Friday will be his second collegiate 10k in cross country, as he ran a time of 31:17.0 minutes at the NCAA Championships in the spring of 2021 while competing for Oklahoma State University.

Also competing in the 10k distance for the second time will be Awet Yohannes, who featured for the Lobos in the 2021 spring NCAA Championships where he ran a time of 32:09.2 minutes.

New Mexico’s most experienced runner, Abdirizak Ibrahim will be competing in his fourth NCAA race at the 10k distance. His PR in the event of 29:28.2 minutes came at the 2021 NCAA Championships, where he crossed the line in 33rd place last fall. He also competed in last year’s Mountain Regional as well as the 2021 spring NCAA Championship meet.

Nehemiah Cionelo brings a 10k PR of 32:13.8 minutes into Friday’s regional, which he ran at the 2019 NCAA Mountain Regional Championships. Cionelo is coming off a 34th-place finish at the Mountain West Championships.

In addition to UNM’s four runners who have experience in NCAA meets, four Lobos will have a look at their first-ever 10k competition.

Jonathan Carmin will look to build upon the three 8k races he has competed in this fall, as the freshman steps into his first NCAA regional meet and first collegiate 10k race. Yehonatan Haim will also toe the regional line for the first time in his collegiate career, having raced in three 8k meets so far this fall.

After competing in his first Mountain West Championship race, Ethan Brouw will take to the regional stage for his first collegiate 10k. Joshua Galindo is UNM’s alternate runner for the event, and has competed in three of the team’s events this fall.