Preview: Lobo track set for Mountain West Championships
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The 2023 Mountain West Indoor Track & Field Championships have arrived, and the New Mexico track and field team is set to enter the home meet this weekend with its sights on title-contending performances.
2023 Mountain West Indoor Track & Field Championships
Albuquerque Convention Center (all times Mountain)
Thursday, February 23 – 10 a.m.
Friday, February 24 – 10 a.m.
Saturday, February 25 – 9:30 a.m.
The women’s 3,000-meters will be a must-watch event for Lobo fans, with the finals scheduled for Saturday at 1:10 p.m. and 10 UNM runners set to compete. Fresh off winning the 5,000-meters two weeks ago at the UW Husky Classic, Amelia Mazza-Downie will run her first 3,000-meters of the year after posting the nation’s fourth-fastest time in the other event.
New Mexico holds the top-four 3,000-meter times in the conference this season, with Samree Dishon leading the way at 9:04.21 minutes. Gracelyn Larkin, the reigning Mountain West indoor champion in the event, is second this season at 9:05.12 minutes while Sarah Eckel is third at 9:15.20 minutes and Stefanie Parsons is fourth at 9:16.20 minutes. Samantha Valentine and Semira Mebrahtu Firezghi are entered after each running personal best marks in Boston on Dec. 3, at 9:27.52 minutes and 9:48.46 minutes, respectively.
Like Mazza-Downie, Emma Heckel, Lauren Bettencourt, and Klara Dess will be competing in the event for the first time this season.
The Lobos are also the top team in the Mountain West this season in both the men’s 4×400-meters and the women’s 4×400-meters. On the men’s side, the quartet of Jovahn Williamson, Jevon O’Bryant, Rivaldo Leacock, and Brodie Young ran the fastest time in the conference this year at 3:06.58 minutes, which was a school and conference record. Williamson, O’Bryant, and Leacock were all on last year’s Mountain West outdoor championship title team in the 4×400-meters, and Victor Akhalu, Ethan Brouw, Matthew Larkin, and Ayoub El Ashmawi give the Lobos a pool of eight runners to select from for the race.
The women’s 4×400-meter squad of Tianna Holmes, Rebecca Grieve, Aleksandra Wolczak, and Logan Neely also broke the school record, and holds the top time in the Mountain West at 3:38.39 minutes. Along with those four, Annamaria Leszczynska, Analisa Ibarra, and Mckenna Watson will be available to construct Saturday’s relay squad.
Four Lobo distance runners are entered in the women’s 5,000-meters, which is the first running event of the weekend on Thursday at 4 p.m. Gracelyn Larkin holds the second-best time in the Mountain West this season at 15:37.47 minutes, which ranks her 13th in the NCAA. Dishon is sixth in the conference at 15:54.27 minutes, and Heckel is seventh with a time of 16:01.90 minutes.
Parsons will lead a group of four Lobo women into the mile preliminaries, where she holds the top time in the conference this season at 4:34.37 minutes. Two of the 12 Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference titles that she claimed during her career at Edinboro were in the mile, as she will compete for her first championship in a Lobo uniform. Eckel enters the meet with the fifth-fastest mile time this season at 4:40.26 minutes, and Firezghi will compete in the mile with a personal-best time of 5:00.48 minutes. The top-10 finishers in Friday’s preliminary round will advance to the finals, which are set for Saturday at 11:10 a.m.
For Bettencourt, who has had a season of personal bests in the mile, it will be the first 5,000-meters and 3,000-meters she has run in a Lobo uniform. Bettencourt hit a PR of 4:49.68 minutes in the mile two weeks ago in Seattle, and enters that race with the 13th-best time in the conference.
On the men’s distance side, Jonathan Carmin will be the first in action as he will compete in the 5,000-meters on Thursday afternoon at 4:20 p.m. Carmin’s best time in the event of 13:52.94 minutes came in Boston in December, and it slates him fifth in the Mountain West entering the meet. Carmin will also lead the Lobos in the 3,000-meters on Saturday, with his time of 8:01.63 minutes ranking fourth in the Mountain West.
Abdirizak Ibrahim, who won the mile at the UW Husky Classic two weeks ago, enters the championship meet with the top time in the conference at 3:57.21 minutes. He will be joined by Kevin Mulcaire, who is sixth in the conference at 4:02.13 minutes, and Ethan Brouw who has yet to run a mile this season. Ibrahim and Mulcaire will each also compete in the 3,000-meters with Carmin on Saturday.
The Lobo distance medley relay teams will close out Thursday’s action, with Dess, Leszczynska, Danielle Verster, and Eckel competing on the women’s side, and Brouw, Young, Matthew Larkin, and Mulcaire competing on the men’s side. Dess and Verster are also scheduled for the 800-meter preliminaries on Friday at 3:30 p.m., where Dess holds the fifth-fastest time in the conference this season at 2:08.90 minutes.
Matthew Larkin is the reigning Mountain West champion in the 800-meters, winning last year’s title with a time of 1:49.14 minutes. Friday will mark the first time this indoor season he will run the race as an attached athlete, and he is also entered in the 3,000-meters on Saturday.
All eyes will be on Lobo newcomer Elizabeth White on Friday at 1 p.m., as she leads the team into the long jump pit. White is fresh off breaking her own school record in the event, as she unleashed a jump of 6.31 meters (20’ 8.5”) at the USATF Championships last Friday. White’s mark is the best in the Mountain West by 0.11 meters, and she also moved up to No. 16 on the NCAA performance list. Joining White in the long jump will be Mikyla Harkley and Lilee Kaasch, who are each also entered in the women’s triple jump on Saturday.
While White vies for a conference title on one runway, Jake Burkey will be doing the same parallel to her in the men’s long jump. The British newcomer has blown away his personal best in the event this indoor season, entering the championship meet leading the conference with a mark of 7.75 meters (25’ 5.25”). While he has only jumped one time this indoor season, fellow newcomer Lokesh Sathyanathan is another Lobo who could be a top performer at the championships. His leap of 7.37 meters (24’ 2.25”) on Dec. 2 was the fifth-best by any long jumper in the conference this year.
Two-time Mountain West indoor champion Aidan Quinn is entered in the triple jump, where he took home the hardware at the 2019 and 2020 Mountain West Indoor Championships. Quinn, who also won a pair of outdoor titles in the triple jump, is second in the conference this season with a mark of 15.36 meters (50’ 4.75”). Darryl Thomas will also compete in the triple jump on Saturday at 11:30 a.m., and he enters the meet ranked seventh in the Mountain West at 14.16 meters (46’ 5.5”).
The Lobos have six women and five men entered in the 400-meter preliminaries, which will kick off at 2:30 p.m. on Friday. Williamson is the conference leader in the event, with a season-best time of 46.51 seconds. O’Bryant ranks second at 46.52 seconds, Young is third at 46.65 seconds, and Leacock checks in at fifth with a time of 47.32 seconds. El Ashmawi will make his Mountain West Championship debut, entering the race with a season-best time of 48.65 seconds. If the Lobo men are on par with their season-best times in the preliminaries, UNM could occupy more than half of the eight-man final set for Saturday at noon.
Holmes, Neely, and Grieve rank third-through-fifth in the conference respectively in the women’s 400-meters, and they’ll be joined by Leszczynska, Wolczak, and Ibarra. Holmes leads the team with a time of 54.23 seconds, which is less than half a second behind the conference leader Shaquena Foote of San Diego State. The top-eight finishers will advance to the finals on Saturday, set for 11:50 a.m.
Akhalu ranks fourth in the conference in the 60-meters with a time of 6.79 seconds, and Gal Arad ranks 10th with a season-best mark of 6.89 seconds. That duo will compete on Friday at 3:15 p.m., with a top-eight finish putting them into the finals on Saturday at 12:20 p.m. Akhalu is also the top Lobo this season in the 200-meters, where his time of 21.34 seconds ranks him third in the conference. Arad meanwhile ranks fifth in the conference at 21.43 seconds in the 200-meters, and Leacock is 11th at 21.56 seconds. El Ashmawi is also entered in the 200-meters, with a season-best time of 21.81 seconds.
In the women’s 60-meters, true freshman Watson has been the top performer this year for the Lobos with a time of 7.57 seconds to rank eighth in the league. Watson, who is just 0.02 seconds off the school record in the event, will be joined by Maria Cisneros Llamazares, Kora Petengill, and White in the preliminaries on Friday at 3:30 p.m.
Watson is also the top Lobo in the 200-meters, where she’ll enter Friday’s preliminaries with a season-best mark of 24.02 seconds to rank fifth in the Mountain West. Holmes, the school record holder in the event at 23.96 seconds, will compete in the 200-meters for the first time this season. Ibarra and Cisneros-Llamazares are each also entered in the 200-meters.
Lobo newcomers Wolczak and Leszczynska will represent the team in the 60-meter hurdles on Friday, while Gannon Christman will compete in the event on the men’s side. All three will by vying for a top-eight finish to advance to the finals on Saturday.
After improving upon their personal bests steadily throughout the winter, Alyssa Gregory and Kiara Quezada-Arzate are entered in the pole vault which is set for Saturday at 11:30 a.m. Gregory’s season best of 3.76 meters (12’ 4”) is fifth best in the Mountain West this year, and although she has competed unattached all season, Quezada-Arzate has equaled Gregory’s mark.
Pettengill and Victoria Plummer will be the first Lobos to compete, kicking off the weekend with the women’s heptathlon on Thursday morning at 11 a.m. It will be the first collegiate pentathlon for Pettengill, while Plummer, competed in the pentathlon at the New Mexico Collegiate Classic on Feb. 3-4 in Albuquerque. Plummer’s lifetime best in the event was 3,352 points, on her way to an eighth-place finish at last year’s Mountain West Indoor Championships. Plummer is also entered in the high jump on Friday at 4:15 p.m., and will be joined in that event by Alyssa Magallanez.
Adam Giron will represent the Lobos in the men’s high jump on Saturday morning, where he holds a season-best mark of 1.96 meters (6’ 5”).
WHAT’S NEXT: The 2023 NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships mark the final meet of the indoor season, and are scheduled for March 10-11 at the convention center. The top-16 competitors in the nation in individual events, and the top-12 in relays will earn berths in the championship meet.