Lobo women repeat as Mountain Regional Champions; Ibrahim qualifies for NCAAs
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Securing their ticket to the NCAA Championships in dominant fashion on Friday morning at the UNM North Golf Course, the New Mexico women’s cross country team successfully defended their NCAA Mountain Regional title by winning the championship again.
Five Lobos placed in the top-21 among the field of 129 competitors, giving UNM 56 points. Utah and Northern Arizona tied for second place with a total of 103 points. “Our region is very strong, and winning it feels really good,” said Lobo sophomore Emma Heckel. “It shows that we are ready (for nationals).”
The Lobos, who have been ranked No. 1 in the region all season long and entered the meet ranked No. 2 nationally by the USTFCCCA, officially wrapped up their 15th consecutive berth into the NCAA Championships. “It was a great crowd, there were lots of people here, and the women ran well,” said UNM head coach Joe Franklin, who has led the Lobos to the national meet every year since the fall of 2008. “We had some really good things happen, and everything went great. The women are in a really good place right now.”
Abdirizak Ibrahim led the Lobo men’s team with a 13th-place finish, and secured his place at the national meet earning an individual berth. The junior earned All-America status at each of the last two NCAA Cross Country Championships. “The strategy was to go to the back and work my way up, and that is something that has worked for me the last few years running the 10k,” said Ibrahim. “The last 2k is what makes it so hard. This race was the important one – if you don’t do well then your season is over. I just had that in the back of my head that I had to do well. The crowd helped too, and there were a lot of Lobos here cheering us on.”
Gracelyn Larkin was UNM’s top finisher, placing fifth with a time of 20:05.9 minutes. Competing in the event for the third time in her career, Larkin made it three top-10 finishes at the regional race.
Crossing the line in eighth place for UNM was Amelia Mazza-Downie, who posted a time of 20:11.9 minutes on Friday. The back-to-back Mountain West Conference champion improved upon last year’s 21st-place finish at the regional meet.
Emma Heckel made it three Lobos in the top-10, crossing the line with a time of 20:13.5 minutes just behind Mazza-Downie. Competing in her second regional event, Heckel improved upon last year’s 11th-place finish at the meet. “I really wanted to stick with the girls from my team and try to run in a pack,” Heckel said. “That’s what makes our team good, and we have the depth for it. It gives you security knowing you have your girls around who you train with every day.”
Ali Upshaw completed the track with a time of 20:27.1 minutes, which was good enough for 13th place on Friday. Upshaw moved up four spots from her 17th-place finish at last year’s regional championship.
Finishing in 21st place was Abbe Goldstein, who ran a time of 20:38.9 minutes. It was the fourth regional meet of her collegiate career and second as a Lobo, after she took fourth at last year’s championship. Larkin, Mazza-Downie, Heckel, Upshaw, and Goldstein each earned all-region honors by virtue of finishing in the top-25.
Checking in with a time of 21:00.1 minutes was Semira Mebrahtu Firezghi, who finished in the top-third of competitors in 38th place. It was her first regional race as a Lobo, and second NCAA race as she also competed in the 2021 spring NCAA Championships.
Also competing for UNM on Friday was Samree Dishon, who ran a time of 22:24.2 minutes and placed 98th.
Everlyn Kemboi of Utah Valley University won the individual title, cruising across the line with a time of 19:47.6 minutes to hold off second-place Elise Stearns of Northern Arizona by eight seconds.
The New Mexico men were led by Ibrahim, who earned all-region recognition and qualified for the NCAA Championships by crossing the line in 18th place. Ibrahim motored his way to a time of 28:19.0 minutes, establishing a personal-best in the 10k distance. “He has the potential to be a three-time All-American in cross country which is rare, and he ran really well today,” Franklin said. “He is moving the right way after his injury last spring, and the Stillwater course really fits him.”
“It is pretty special,” said Ibrahim on qualifying for the national meet for the third straight season. “It won’t be anything different from the last two years, and I’m just going to try to do what I did before. Hopefully it works for the third year in-a-row.”
Kevin Mulcaire, who was UNM’s top finisher at the Mountain West Championships, was next to cross the line with a time of 29:04.8 minutes. Mulcaire’s time on Friday was also a PR, as he finished in 42nd place among the field of 118 runners.
Jonathan Carmin finished in the top half of competitors in his first collegiate 10k, running a time of 29:15.3 minutes to take 51st place. Close behind Carmin was Awet Yohannes, who posted a time of 29:19.9 minutes to place 53rd. Yohannes’ time was the best of his career, as he broke 30 minutes for the first time in the 10k.
Nehemiah Cionelo, UNM’s other runner with experience in the 10k distance, also established a PR on Friday. Cionelo took 63rd place, breaking the 30-minute barrier with a time of 29:49.8 minutes.
Yehonatan Haim ran a time of 31:03.1 minutes in his first 10k in a Lobo uniform, and took 96th place. Also competing for the Lobos for the first time in the 10k was Ethan Brouw, who ran a time of 31:27.8 minutes and placed 104th.
Nico Young and Drew Bosley of Northern Arizona crossed the finish line in tandem, with Young claiming the individual title by 0.10 seconds at 28:01.8 minutes. Northern Arizona won the team title with 44 points, holding off second-place BYU which totaled 61 points.
LOBO NOTES: The women won their sixth regional title on Friday, first claiming the crown in 1981 and following in 2010, 2011, 2018, and 2021…UNM has finished first or second in 12 consecutive regional meets dating back to the 2010 season…the Lobo women have won two national championships – in 2015 and 2017.
NEXT STOP, STILLWATER: The Lobos head to the NCAA Championships, which are scheduled for Nov. 19 at the Greiner Family OSU Cross Country Course. The women’s 6k race starts at 9:20 a.m. (Central) and the men’s 10k race follows at 10:10 a.m. (Central). Live coverage will be available online here.