New Mexico’s bid for a third NCAA national championship in women’s cross country came up short Saturday in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
With a runner-up finish, however, the Lobos will be bringing back a trophy for a top-three finish for the seventh time in the last nine seasons.
And for just the second time in program history, UNM’s top five runners earned All-American status by finishing among the top 40.
Second-ranked New Mexico totaled 140 points; the top-ranked North Carolina State Wolfpack won the title with 114 points at the Greiner Family OSU Cross Country Course.
“To do this seven out of last nine years, to bring a trophy back to New Mexico, it is so rarefied,” UNM coach Joe Franklin said. “I can’t put it into words what they’ve for the past decade. These women have done this over and over again.”
The Lobos used a bunched wolf pack, with the spread from top finisher to fifth of just 11.1 seconds.
The problem, however, was that spread ranged from Amelia Mazza-Downie, who finished 22nd by covering the 6-kilometer course in 20 minutes, 2.8 seconds to Elise Thorner, who was 40th in 20:13.9.
NC State, meanwhile, had three runners finish before the top Lobo, including individual champion Katelyn Tuohy in a time of 19.27.7, with another runner third.
“They did great,” Franklin said. “I said going in if we had a 15-17 second spread, we would do well. It was 11.1, so they did awesome.”
New Mexico climbed into the race from well behind, sitting in 17th place overall through the first checkpoint at 1.11K. The Lobos had moved up to 15th by the second checkpoint at 2.05K. It was during the next segment, however, that UNM began to surge, advancing to sixth after 2.83K, then third by 4K.
“Going into a race, you don’t know what’s going to happen,” Franklin said. “They’ve run well all year. They did exactly what we asked. There was nothing, literally, else we could have done. We got beat by a better team.”
Going into the race, however, the Lobos were looking at snagging a third national championship, said Abbe Goldstein, the lone senior of the team’s top seven runners.
“It’s such a unique situation,” she said. “On the line before the race, everybody was hyping each other up, hoping for the win. But everyone is really proud. We moved forward from third last year and we were way closer to the top team than last year.”
Goldstein, who clocked in at 20:41.1, good for 109th among 253 finishers, said she was disappointed in her result but was honored to run for the Lobos the last two seasons as a grad transfer from Harvard.
“The girls ran really well,” she said. “The five scorers are All-Americans, which is unreal. The course was really brutal, and putting five women in the top 40 spots speaks to the depth this program has. And it was a really tough course. It was hardest I’ve run on. It was really hard and it was quite cold.”
Just getting a chance to be part of a trophy-winning team was an incredible experience, Goldstein added.
“It’s really special,” she said. “It’s something very few people get to experience. Very few people get to be on something like this in their lifetime. And the future is super bright. And so many people have made massive improvement, as well.”
On the men’s side, UNM’s Abdirizak Ibrahim, a two-time All-American, ran a time of 30:05.8 minutes over 10 kilometers for 84th place. Northern Arizona captured the team title.