Open Announce
Tianna Holmes won the 200-meters and 400-meters at the Mountain West Championships.

Lobo women are MW runners-up, men finish third

by Evan O'Kelly

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Eight individual event titles and both New Mexico track & field teams finishing in the top-three highlighted the 2023 Mountain West Indoor Track & Field Championships for the Lobos over the weekend at the Albuquerque Convention Center.

The Lobo women finished one point behind conference champion Colorado State, with the Lobo women taking second at 124.5 points across the three-day event. UNM’s men totaled 97 points, finishing in third place among the field of seven teams competing. “It was a great weekend, and we just came up a little short,” said UNM head coach Joe Franklin. “We have a lot of kids who believe in themselves, believe in the team, and believe in each other. They really laid it all out there today.”

Tianna Holmes became the first woman in New Mexico history to win the Mountain West title in the 200-meters, breaking her own school record on consecutive days to finish with a mark of 23.56 seconds (23.49) to top the field on Saturday. She also became just the second woman in New Mexico history to win the 400-meters at the Mountain West Championships, matching the feat of Holly VanGrinsven in 2015. Holmes ran a time of 53.35 seconds (53.24), edging second-place Emily Costello of Nevada by 0.03 seconds.

Holmes started her championship meet by breaking her own school record in the 200-meters in the preliminary round, racing to a time of 23.68 seconds (23.61) on Friday. That was 0.31 seconds better than her school-record time of 23.96 seconds, which she ran last winter during the indoor season. “What Tianna did was just amazing,” said Franklin. “She has had injury issues the last few years, and for her to power through and score as many points as she did for the team shows her commitment excellence and to being the best she can be.”

Jake Burkey broke the Mountain West Conference Championships record in the long jump, claiming the title with a personal-best leap of 7.87 meters (25’ 10”) on Friday. Burkey’s record mark came on his fifth attempt of the day, as he vaulted himself into contention for a spot in the NCAA Championships. At the end of the meet on Saturday, Burkey ranked 15th in the country with the top-16 advancing to the championship meet on March 10-11 in Albuquerque. “Jake popped himself – we think – into the national championship,” Franklin said. “Hopefully he will get a chance to wear the turquoise at home in two weeks.”

The Lobos got 10 points from their women’s distance medley relay team on Thursday evening, which ran a well-balanced race to claim title for the second year in-a-row. Australians Klara Dess, Annamaria Leszczynska, and Sarah Eckel, and South African Danielle Verster combined to run a time of 11:21.09 minutes (11:31.55), and Eckel held off Boise State by half a second at the finish line for the win.

New Mexico’s men’s 4×400-meter relay squad also claimed the title, with Rivaldo Leacock, Brodie Young, Jovahn Williamson, and Jevon O’Bryant combining to post a time of 3:10.40 minutes (3:09.96). “Having them run great at the conference meet was big for us, and they did a great job,” Franklin said. “They came back after not having the individual winner in the 400, and to win the 4×400 title is an incredible achievement for them.”

Jonathan Carmin was UNM’s first champion of the weekend, using a late kick on the final lap of the men’s 5,000-meters to hold off Air Force’s Ryan Johnson for the title. Carmin crossed the line in a time of 13:55.40 minutes (14:18.09), and he was just under three seconds off his personal best of 13:52.94 minutes which he ran on Dec. 3 in Boston. “To look at his face the last 200-meters, you saw the grit and determination that you want to see,” Franklin said.

Stefanie Parsons made it four consecutive years with a mile champion for the Lobos, cruising to a time of 4:35.20 minutes (4:41.32) on Saturday morning. It was the seasoned veteran’s first conference title in a Lobo uniform and third-career mile conference title, and it gave her 13 total conference championships including her career at NCAA D2 Edinboro University. Parsons became the eighth woman in UNM history to claim the mile title, joining Elise Thorner (2022), Adva Cohen (2020), Weini Kelati (2019), Sophie Connor (2016), Sammy Silva (2015), Charlotte Arter (2014), and Josephine Moultrie (2012, 2013). Eckel finished fifth in the mile, earning the Lobos four points with her time of 4:49.86 minutes (4:56.31). “Stef went for it, and wanted to win,” Franklin said. “She came close to NCAA qualifying, but being a conference champion is something that is incredibly difficult to do.”

Reigning Mountain West 800-meter champion Matthew Larkin successfully defended his title on Saturday, cruising to a victory with a time of 1:49.96 minutes (1:50.57). “This was his first 800 of the year, and for him to go out and defend his title was awesome,” said Franklin. “Now he is looking forward to a good outdoor season.”

The tightly-contested women’s team title came down to the final three events of the meet on Saturday. The Lobos cut into Colorado State’s lead with a successful women’s 3,000-meters, taking four of the top-six spots to collect 22 total points. Gracelyn Larkin finished in second at 9:05.16 minutes (9:17.21), Samree Dishon took third at 9:06.75 minutes (9:20.55), Amelia Mazza-Downie finished fourth at 9:11.32 minutes (9:25.24), and Emma Heckel took sixth at 9:18.97 minutes (9:33.08). Despite CSU’s Sarah Carter winning the race, the Lobos’ group effort was enough to pull the team within one point of the Rams entering the final event of the championship – the 4×400-meter relay.

That came after Alyssa Gregory cleared 3.63 meters (11’ 10.75”) on her final pole vault attempt, surviving to reach the next height along with Kiara Quezada-Arzate. The duo each went on to clear 3.78 meters (12’ 4.75”), which locked up nine valuable points for the Lobos to keep them neck-and-neck with the Rams. “The women’s pole vault was outstanding,” Franklin said on the duo of Gregory and Quezada-Arzate. “We haven’t scored points in that event in a long time, and for Alyssa and Ki to come out and crush it like they did was amazing.”

The Lobo women finished third in the 4×400-meter relay to earn six points, posting a time of 3:40.63 minutes (3:40.19) in the final event of the meet. The Colorado State women earned four points for finishing fifth in the 4×400-meters, which was enough to edge the Lobos by a single point 125.5-124.5 for the women’s team championship title.

Holmes earned her third all-conference accolade of the meet by virtue of helping the relay squad finish third, as she was joined by Rebecca Grieve, Aleksandra Wolczak, and Logan Neely in the relay.

In the first running event of the weekend, Gracelyn Larkin, Dishon, and Heckel combined to get the Lobos 18 points in the 5,000-meters. Larkin finished in second with a time of 15:43.86 minutes (16:09.50), and Dishon finished third with a personal-best time of 15:45.08 minutes (16:10.75). Heckel was close behind in fifth place, clocking a time of 15:56.88 minutes (16:22.87).

The Lobos also got eight points from their men’s distance medley relay squad, with the team of Ethan Brouw, Young, Matthew Larkin, and Kevin Mulcaire teaming up for a time of 9:33.13 minutes (9:41.93). Air Force narrowly edged UNM down the stretch by 0.63 seconds to prevent the Lobos from claiming the title.

Elizabeth White broke the school record in the long jump for the third time this season, unleashing a mark of 6.39 meters (20’ 11.75”) to finish as the runner-up on Friday. White’s leap was a personal best, as she surpassed her previous jump of 6.34 meters (20’ 9.75”) she achieved during her career at Southern Utah. White’s jump moved her into a tie for 16th on the NCAA performance list, with the top-16 earning a spot in the national championships.

Lokesh Sathyanathan also hit a huge personal best in the long jump on Friday, with a leap of 7.69 meters (25’ 2.75”) to earn all-conference recognition with a third-place finish. Sathyanathan’s previous best in a Lobo uniform was 7.37 meters (24’ 2.25”), which he hit on Dec. 2 in his UNM debut.

As expected, the Lobo men had a strong showing in the preliminary round of the 400-meters, with UNM taking up four of the eight spots in the championship round. O’Bryant led the Lobos with a second-place finish at 46.69 seconds (46.58), and Young was just behind at 46.71 seconds (46.60) to finish third.

Grieve hit a personal best in the preliminary round of the 400-meters on Friday, with a time of 54.73 seconds (54.62) to qualify for the finals alongside Holmes. She followed by earning the Lobos five points in the 400-meters, running a personal-best time of 54.27 seconds (54.16) to finish just off the podium in fourth place.

Two-time Mountain West triple jump champion Aidan Quinn finished as the runner-up on Saturday, notching a top mark of 15.43 meters (50’ 7.5”).

Victor Akhalu and Gal Arad each qualified for the finals in the 60-meters, with Arad squeaking into the final spot by .002 seconds. Akhalu earned the Lobo men eight points on Saturday, finishing a hair behind champion Roman Johnson of San Jose State with a time of 6.81 seconds (6.79). Arad also earned one point, finishing in eighth at 7.10 seconds (7.08). The Israeli international qualified for the 200-meter finals, where he placed eighth with a time of 21.79 seconds (21.72).

Mulcaire represented the Lobos in the men’s mile, finishing in fourth place with a time of 4:06.05 minutes (4:11.53). He also ran a time of 8:08.10 minutes (8:20.42) in the 3,000 meters, finishing just behind Carmin who ran 8:06.31 minutes (8:18.59).

After contributing to the Lobos’ DMR win on Thursday, Dess finished seventh in the 800-meter finals on Saturday with a time of 2:12.18 minutes (2:12.92) to snag two points for UNM.

Mikyla Harkley finished her indoor season with a personal best in the long jump, hitting a mark of 5.67 meters (18’ 7.25”) in the preliminary round on Friday. She followed by placing fifth for the Lobos in the triple jump on Saturday, with a leap of 12.19 meters (40’ 0”) to earn UNM four points.

Wolczak hit a big PR in the 60-meter hurdles during the preliminary round on Friday, with a time of 8.55 seconds (8.53) to qualify for Saturday’s finals. She followed by earning the Lobos five points in the 60-meter hurdles, finishing in fourth place with a time of 8.57 seconds (8.55). Wolczak also ran the 400-meter preliminaries, with a time of 56.27 seconds (56.16) on Friday.

After a season-long pursuit, Mckenna Watson broke through with the school record in the 60-meters on Friday with a time of 7.54 seconds (7.52). After narrowly missing the mark of 7.55 seconds held by Kayla Fisher-Taylor on several occasions throughout the winter, Watson made her final 60-meters of the season count with the record. The true freshman finished ninth in the preliminaries, missing out on the finals by 0.01 seconds. Watson ended her indoor season with a time of 24.52 seconds in the 200-meter preliminaries.

Victoria Plummer notched a personal best in the pentathlon, finishing just out of scoring in ninth place with a total of 3,536 points. Her point total was the fifth most in Lobo indoor history in the event. Kora Pettengill hit a huge personal best in the shot put at 10.80 meters (35’ 5.25”), and another personal best in the 60-meter hurdles at 9.36 seconds (9.34). Plummer meanwhile tied her personal best in the high jump at 1.70 meters (5’ 7”), before hitting a PR in the shot put at 9.71 meters (31’ 10.25”). Plummer notched a long jump of 5.35 meters (17’ 6.75”), and Pettengill hit a mark of 4.91 meters (16’ 3.25”). Pettengill finished her first collegiate pentathlon with 3,038 points.

Plummer also earned the Lobos 1.5 points in the high jump, clearing a mark of 1.67 meters (5’ 5.75”) on Friday to tie for seventh. Alyssa Magallanez followed with a height of 1.57 meters (5’ 1.75”) in the high jump.

In addition to her long jump record, White set a PR in the 60-meters with a time of 7.68 seconds (7.66). Maria Cisneros Llamazares ran a time of 7.74 seconds (7.72), and Pettengill checked in at 7.94 seconds (7.92). Cisneros Llamazares also competed in the 200-meters, where she ran a time of 25.65 seconds (25.58) in the preliminary round on Friday.

In his first Mountain West Championships, Ayoub El Ashmawi notched a personal best in the 400-meters with a time of 48.58 seconds (48.47) in the preliminaries on Friday. He also hit a PR in the 200-meters, with a mark of 21.70 seconds (21.63) in the prelims.

Adam Giron hit a personal best in the high jump on Saturday morning, clearing a height of 2.00 meters (6’ 6.75”) to close out his indoor season. That topped his previous collegiate best of 1.97 meters (6’ 5.5”), which he hit on Jan. 22, 2022 in Albuquerque.

Lilee Kaasch also participated in the long jump with a top mark of 5.19 meters (17’ 0.5”), and in the triple jump she posted a top leap of 11.47 meters (37’ 7.75”). Neely finished her indoor season with a time of 56.41 seconds (56.30) in the 400-meters in the preliminaries on Friday.

Brouw also competed in the mile at the championships, where he notched a time of 4:10.46 minutes (4:16.03) in the preliminary round on Friday. In the women’s mile preliminary round, Semira Mebrahtu Firezghi ran a personal-best time of 4:53.37 minutes (4:59.90) to finish 15th, while Lauren Bettencourt was right behind at 5:01.03 minutes (5:07.73) to finish 16th.

Leszczynska participated in the 60-meter hurdles with a time of 8.86 seconds (8.84) in the preliminaries, which was an improvement 0.21 seconds upon her previous season best of 9.07 seconds. She followed with a time of 56.48 seconds (56.37) in the 400-meter preliminaries.

Analisa Ibarra made her Mountain West Championship debut, posting a time of 26.21 seconds (26.14) in the 200-meters. Verster also participated in the 800-meters in her first-ever conference meet, finishing in 11th place in the preliminaries with a time of 2:14.22 minutes (2:14.97) on Friday. Gannon Christman competed in the 60-meter hurdles, finishing with a time of 8.67 seconds (8.65) in the preliminary round on Friday.

LOOKING AHEAD: The Lobos will finalize their qualifiers for the NCAA Championships, which are set for March 10-11 at the Albuquerque Convention Center.