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Busy 3-day track schedule gets underway

The open windows for track availability at the Albuquerque Convention Center over the next three days will be just as tight as the competition that will take place.

That’s because the Don Kirby Invitational, hosted by University of New Mexico, and the Toyota USA Track & Field Indoor Championships, televised by NBC and NBC Sports Network, is creating a hectic schedule at the Albuquerque Convention Center.

The competitive action begins with the Don Kirby Invitational, featuring 700 athletes, Thursday at 1 p.m. USA Track & Field athletes will be practicing at the facility Thursday morning, just as they did Wednesday night.

“It’s crazy, but it’s a lot of fun,” UNM track and field coach Joe Franklin said. “You know how track meets usually last longer than the scheduled time? That’s not an option, especially on Friday. But we have so many people helping out, I’m not worried about it.”

The Don Kirby Invitational’s Friday session begins at 8:30 a.m., and the final event is scheduled to start at 2:30 p.m. The meet must end by 3 p.m., Franklin said. The USATF Indoor Championships begin at 5:10 p.m., and doors open for the highly anticipated meet an hour before that.

Roughly 80 UNM track and field athletes will help with the changeover – “a massive overtaking,” Franklin said – from the Don Kirby Invitational to the USATF Indoor Championships.

The UNM athletes will make sure the venue is clean, help with any sign boards that need to be posted, and remove and replace starting blocks, among other duties. They will also help break down the equipment of FloTrack, which will be streaming the Don Kirby Invitational and does not have rights to stream the USATF Indoor Championships, Franklin said.

NBC will have its cameras and equipment for the USATF meet, and RunnerSpace will be streaming the action.

“It’s like a circus,” Franklin said.

UNM sprinter Jay Griffin IV, also a wide receiver for the Lobos’ football team, highlights the action at the Don Kirby Invitational in the 200 meters, scheduled for Thursday at 4:45 p.m.

The women’s mile, Friday at 12:15 p.m., and the men’s 400 meters, Friday at 1 p.m. are events to watch for at the college meet, Franklin said.

Former UNM standout Courtney Frerichs, the 2016 NCAA 3,000-meter steeplechase outdoor champion, is competing in the USATF Indoors in the 3,000 meters on Friday at 8:28 p.m.

Aasha Marler, a UNM volunteer assistant coach who competed for the Lobos and graduated from Hope Christian, is also in the USATF Indoors, competing in the long jump, Saturday at 11:15 a.m.

The U.S. indoor meet features several elite athletes, including Elle Purrier, who on Saturday set the American record in the women’s indoor mile at the Millrose Games in New York. She recorded the second-fastest indoor mile ever in 4 minutes, 16.85 seconds, behind Ethiopia’s Genzebe Dibaba world record of 4:13:31, set in 2016.

Purrier’s time eclipsed Mary Tabb’s U.S. record of 4:20:50 set in 1982.

The women’s indoor mile is Saturday at 2:40 p.m.

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