No. 1-ranked, optimistic Lobos prep to host league cross country meet - Albuquerque Journal

No. 1-ranked, optimistic Lobos prep to host league cross country meet

The University of New Mexico women’s cross country team, including Stefanie Parsons (1882), Adva Cohen (1871), Amelia Mazza-Downie (1880) and Emma Heckel (1876), is ranked No. 1 in the nation in the coaches’ poll. (Courtesy of UNM Athletics)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

Sure, coach Joe Franklin recruits some of the greatest runners in the nation, even across the globe, and gets the best out of them at the University of New Mexico.

But there is more to the Lobos’ success than recruiting and attention to detail. For Franklin, it’s simple; maintain optimism.

“To remember all the positives we have and not focus on the negatives,” Franklin, in his 15th year at UNM, said of the key to building a powerhouse program that includes a women’s cross country team ranked No. 1 in the nation by the U.S. Track & Field Cross Country Coaches Association.

“Somebody asked me (on Tuesday) why we listen to the music that we listen to in practice. There’s too much angst in the world.”

The Lobos recently listened to Electronic Dance Music as they prepared for Friday’s Mountain West Championship meet at the UNM North Golf Course.

The men’s 8K race is at 10:15 a.m. and the women’s 6K race is at 11 a.m. The meet is free to the public and also will be streamed live on themw.com.

The UNM women will be vying for their 14th straight league title. The men will be trying for their seventh – and first since 2014 when UNM capped a run of six consecutive championships.

“It’s happy,” Franklin said of the music. “Negativity can only go so far.”

Franklin said he remains positive because he believes UNM has “one of the best training locations in the world.” That’s why he’s grateful the Lobos will be hosting the meet on Friday. The meet was originally scheduled to take place at San Jose State; Franklin said the Spartans were unable to take it on due to logistical reasons and UNM won the bid to host about two months ago.

The Mountain West meet is in Albuquerque for the first time since 2017 when the UNM women won the league crown and went on to capture the national championship.

It seems the UNM women have national championship aspirations every year. UNM showed it will definitely be a contender after winning the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational on Oct. 15. The Lobos finished ahead of North Carolina State, ranked No. 1 in the nation at that meet, and BYU, the former MWC power that then was ranked No. 2.

UNM senior Stephanie Parsons, a graduate transfer from Division II Edinboro University in Pennsylvania, led the Lobos, finishing 12th in 20 minutes, 21.9 seconds. Gracelyn Larkin and Emma Heckel finished 15th (20:23.0) and 16th (20:24.4), respectively.

Parsons was named the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Women’s Cross Country Athlete of the Year at the conclusion of the 2020 season, and she helped lead Edinboro to finish 18th at the NCAA Division II National Championships. The Ontario native earned All-American honors for the first time, finishing 17th. She showed great improvement after she had finished 154th the year before.

The Lobos don’t really have much of an advantage on the cross country trek at the UNM North Golf Course. They don’t practice or train there, Franklin said. They haven’t been on the course for two years, and their first time will be for a practice run on Thursday, he said.

“Being at home, sleeping in your own bed and eating at the restaurants you know, that’s very positive,” Franklin said. “What we have to do is make sure we treat Friday morning like race day as opposed to ‘showing up and coming to practice’ day. We will get up a little early.”

Franklin said he will not hold out any runners for the MWC meet, but plans to hold out a few for the NCAA Regional meet on Nov. 12.

The MW meet’s women’s race features two more nationally ranked teams in the top 30, including No. 11 Colorado State and No. 28 Utah State.

On the men’s side, four ranked teams are in the top 30: No. 11 Air Force, No. 19, Colorado State, No. 21 Utah State and No. 23 Boise State. Senior Iolo Hughes is one of the unranked Lobos’ leaders. He finished 31st in 25:21.9 at the Nuttycombe, where he helped UNM to a fifth-place finish in the men’s B race.


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