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UNM X-C: Caldwell understands physics of running

UNM cross country runner Luke Caldwell studies before practice on Wednesday, October 23, 2013. Caldwell is the defending MWC champion.(Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

UNM cross country runner Luke Caldwell studies before practice on Wednesday, October 23, 2013. Caldwell is the defending MWC champion. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

One day, in Surrey, England, a stone’s throw from London, a young boy stepped forward and became a runner.

That boy is a young man now, some 5,000 miles from home, still interested in physics and the math that goes with it, still lacing his shoes for a good run.

Luke Caldwell, a senior, will be running for the ninth-ranked New Mexico cross country team at the Air Force Academy on Friday, attempting to defend his Mountain West Conference title.

“He’s been the foundation and backbone of our program the last 14 months,” UNM coach Joe Franklin says of Caldwell, an All-American in cross country as well as indoor and outdoor track.

About 15 months ago, nobody, not even Caldwell, knew of what he was capable.

Caldwell showed up at UNM last year, a transfer from the University of Oxford, with a bare résúmé.

“A great student,” Franklin says. “But an unheralded runner.”

When Caldwell was in high school in Betchworth in the district of Surrey, England, someone announced the cross country team was short a runner for that weekend’s meet.

“I don’t know what possessed me, but I went along and I did all right,” Caldwell says. “Someone said I should go down to the running club, and I did that, too. I don’t know why. It’s spiraled out of control since then.”

When a guy ahead of him in school got a scholarship to run for the University of Tulsa, Caldwell got the idea he, too, might like to run for a U.S. college. When the time came, he sent out about 20 emails.

“Some of them didn’t reply,” Caldwell says. “Some of them replied, saying no thanks. And there were a few that replied with some vague interest.”

Franklin was in the last category. They each liked what the other had to say, and Caldwell became a Lobo.

“My running has gone better than I ever imagined it would,” Caldwell says. “I think the physics program has been better than I anticipated, as well. I’ve had some really good professors who’ve taught me some interesting stuff.”

Caldwell has long been fascinated by physics, by how it strives to explain the world.

“I’m a guy who likes concrete answers to things,” he says. “There has to be a right or a wrong answer. … I kind of enjoy the mathematical side of it.”

The UNM coaches have enjoyed watching his progress. Twice this season he has been named MWC athlete of the week.

“Luke has probably been the biggest surprise,” assistant coach ‘A Havahla Haynes says. “He’s great academically. You really don’t have to worry about him. Athletically, he comes ready to work everyday. He has high expectations for himself, but also any expectations we have for him, he strives to accomplish.”

Says Franklin, “He has literally gotten better each weekend over the last year and a half.”

Says Caldwell, “I came out here and I got to train everyday with a group of really talented guys who are trying to be as good as they can be. Really training in a professional way, with coaches who try to do everything they can to make it as good as possible.”

Distance running fits with his scientific notion of the world, unlike some sports where luck or other factors cloud the results.

“In distance running, 95 percent of the time the person who wins is the person who is the fittest, the person who is most suited to the race on the day,” he says.

There are studies on the physics of running and they use terms such as terminal velocity and drag coefficient. Caldwell’s equation is something like hard work translating to performance gain.

But there’s something else.

“It’s really a nice way to separate myself from the other things I do in my life,” Caldwell says. “Academic work and everything else. I find it very relaxing.”

“He’s been the foundation and backbone of our program the last 14 months,” UNM coach Joe Franklin says of Caldwell, an All-American in cross country as well as indoor and outdoor track.

About 15 months ago, nobody, not even Caldwell, knew of what he was capable.

Caldwell showed up at UNM last year, a transfer from the University of Oxford, with a bare résúmé.

“A great student,” Franklin says. “But an unheralded runner.”

When Caldwell was in high school in Betchworth in the district of Surrey, England, someone announced the cross country team was short a runner for that weekend’s meet.

“I don’t know what possessed me, but I went along and I did all right,” Caldwell says. “Someone said I should go down to the running club, and I did that, too. I don’t know why. It’s spiraled out of control since then.”

When a guy ahead of him in school got a scholarship to run for the University of Tulsa, Caldwell got the idea he, too, might like to run for a U.S. college. When the time came, he sent out about 20 emails.

“Some of them didn’t reply,” Caldwell says. “Some of them replied, saying no thanks. And there were a few that replied with some vague interest.”

Franklin was in the last category. They each liked what the other had to say, and Caldwell became a Lobo.

“My running has gone better than I ever imagined it would,” Caldwell says. “I think the physics program has been better than I anticipated, as well. I’ve had some really good professors who’ve taught me some interesting stuff.”

Caldwell has long been fascinated by physics, by how it strives to explain the world.

“I’m a guy who likes concrete answers to things,” he says. “There has to be a right or a wrong answer. … I kind of enjoy the mathematical side of it.”

The UNM coaches have enjoyed watching his progress. Twice this season he has been named MWC athlete of the week.

“Luke has probably been the biggest surprise,” assistant coach ‘A Havahla Haynes says. “He’s great academically. You really don’t have to worry about him. Athletically, he comes ready to work everyday. He has high expectations for himself, but also any expectations we have for him, he strives to accomplish.”

Says Franklin, “He has literally gotten better each weekend over the last year and a half.”

Says Caldwell, “I came out here and I got to train everyday with a group of really talented guys who are trying to be as good as they can be. Really training in a professional way, with coaches who try to do everything they can to make it as good as possible.”

Distance running fits with his scientific notion of the world, unlike some sports where luck or other factors cloud the results.

“In distance running, 95 percent of the time the person who wins is the person who is the fittest, the person who is most suited to the race on the day,” he says.

There are studies on the physics of running and they use terms such as terminal velocity and drag coefficient. Caldwell’s equation is something like hard work translating to performance gain.

But there’s something else.

“It’s really a nice way to separate myself from the other things I do in my life,” Caldwell says. “Academic work and everything else. I find it very relaxing.”

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