Open Announce

Preview: Lobos seek 3rd NCAA title Saturday

by Evan O'Kelly

STILLWATER, Okla. – In pursuit of a third NCAA cross country title, the University of New Mexico women will take to the Greiner Family OSU Cross Country Course on Saturday morning in the final meet of the 2022 season.

Seven Lobo women will participate in the race, and Abdirizak Ibrahim will run on the men’s side after earning an at-large berth for the third season in-a-row. “Our goal is always to get to nationals and at least have a chance,” said UNM head coach Joe Franklin. “Our runners are confident but not arrogant, and they are driven to help each other as a team. We are looking forward to the gun going off. In order for us to be successful, we need to have a 12-17 second gap from 1-5. If that happens, then we will be in a good spot.”

2022 NCAA Cross Country Championships

Saturday, November 19 – Greiner Family OSU Cross Country Course – Stillwater, Oklahoma

Women’s 6k Race – 9:20 a.m. Central/8:20 a.m. Mountain

Men’s 10k Race – 10:10 a.m. Central/9:10 a.m. Mountain

Watch Live: ESPNU

Live Results:

New Mexico won the NCAA Championship for the first time in 2015 and repeated the feat in 2017, and the two-time national champions enter the race as one of the favorites. As it has been all season long, UNM appeared at No. 2 in the latest USTFCCCA national rankings released on Monday.

The Lobos are fresh off their sixth NCAA Mountain Regional crown, running away with the title last Friday at the UNM North Golf Course in Albuquerque. It was the second major team victory of the season for UNM, which secured its record 15th consecutive Mountain West Conference title on Oct. 28. The Lobos will be competing in the NCAA Championships as a team for the 15th consecutive season under the guidance of 15th-year head coach Joe Franklin.

Including its two national titles, UNM has finished in the top-10 in the nation in each of the last eight seasons and has finished in the top-five in six of those seasons. The Lobos are coming off a third-place finish at the 2021 championships, and have five returners on the squad who each competed in the race last year.

Lobos XC 2022 NCAA 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
Elise Thorner 19:57.6 10/28/22 Mountain West Championships
Semira Mebrahtu Firezghi 20:25.7 10/28/22 Mountain West Championships
Sarah Eckel 20:30.3 10/28/22 Mountain West Championships
Danielle Verster 20:35.3 10/28/22 Mountain West Championships
Samantha Valentine 21:09.4 10/14/22 Nuttycombe Invitational
Maisie Grice 21:33.9 10/14/22 Nuttycombe Invitational
Isabella Fauria 22:24.7 10/14/22 Nuttycombe Invitational
Lauren Bettencourt 22:39.0 10/15/21 Nuttycombe Invitational

 *Among UNM’s 14 runners, seven will compete in the championship meet on Saturday.  

PLETHORA OF CHAMPIONSHIP EXPERIENCE: Among the 14 runners UNM will bring to Stillwater, seven of them have participated in the NCAA Championships before. Senior Gracelyn Larkin is the most experienced of the group with three championships under her belt, and she finished as an All-American in both 2020 (25th place) and 2021 (21st place).

Last year Larkin became the eighth runner in UNM women’s history to repeat as a cross country All-American. Among that list of runners, four were three-time All-Americans including four-time All-American Alice Wright (2014-17). Carole Roybal (1984-86) was the first Lobo to earn the award three times, with Wright followed by Ednah Kurgat and Weini Kelati (2017-19).

UNM Lobo Women’s XC Multi All-American Award Winners

Runner  Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4
Alice Wright 2014 2015 2016 2017
Carole Roybal 1984 1985 1986
Ednah Kurgat 2017 2018 2019
Weini Kelati 2017 2018 2019
Charlotte Arter 2013 2014
Calli Thackery 2015 2016
Charlotte Prouse 2017 2018
Gracelyn Larkin 2020 2021

Amelia Mazza-Downie is the other Lobo with multiple championship races in her repertoire, after placing 58th in 2020 and 56th last fall at the national meet.

Emma Heckel was UNM’s top finisher at the championships last year, cruising across the line in 18th place to claim All-America status. Abigail Goldstein took 47th at last year’s championship race, and Ali Upshaw also competed for the Lobos taking 140th. Semira Mebrahtu Firezghi and Elise Thorner are also in the Lobo lineup this fall, after placing 116th and 121st, respectively, at the 2020 event which was run in the spring of 2021.

Lobos w/NCAA Championship Experience

Runner 2019 2020 2021
Gracelyn Larkin 122 25 24
Amelia Mazza-Downie 58 56
Emma Heckel 18
Abigail Goldstein 47
Ali Upshaw 140
Semira Mebrahtu Firezghi 116
Elise Thorner 121

IBRAHIM LOOKS FOR THIRD ALL-AMERICA AWARD: The lone men’s runner on Saturday for the Lobos, Ibrahim will look to repeat his performance at the 2020 and 2021 championship meets, where he garnered All-America status. His debut in the 10k came at the 2020 championships, when he ran a time of 30:42.0 minutes and placed 35th. He improved by two spots the following fall, finishing in 33rd place at the 2021 championships with a time of 29:29.1 minutes.

Competing in his first 10k event of the 2022 season at last week’s regional, Ibrahim posted a PR in the distance with a time of 28:19.0 minutes to take 18th place and earn his spot in Saturday’s race. Ibrahim is the third repeat All-American in program history, joining Matt Gonzales (2001, 2004) and Luke Caldwell (2012, 2013). No Lobo runner has earned three All-America awards in cross country on the men’s side.