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No. 1 is off and running: Lobo women dominate Notre Dame meet

NOTRE DAME, Ind. — No. 1 in the nation, No. 1 at Notre Dame.Running for the first time as the nation’s top-ranked team, the New Mexico women’s cross country team dominated the Joe Piane Notre Dame Invitational Friday afternoon, while the 17th-ranked men’s team placed ninth.

The Lobo women won the meet for the second year in a row as all five scorers placed in the top 15. New Mexico easily outdistanced the competition in the women’s race at Burke Golf Course in Notre Dame, winning with a team score of 29 points, the lowest at the meet in three years.

The New Mexico men also posted a solid performance in their race, running to ninth place out of 20 teams.

Combined, the Lobos placed both teams in the top 10 for the eighth straight trip to Notre Dame. The women’s victory is just the second win by either squad in a regular-season meet outside of New Mexico since 2011.

UNM also claimed a number of key wins against other teams as both the men’s and women’s teams begin to build their credentials for the NCAA Championships late next month.

New Mexico has qualified both teams to the NCAAs each of the last six years.

Courtney Frerichs led the Lobo women in the women’s 5-kilometer run, taking second overall in 16 minutes, 27 seconds. The transfer from the University of Missouri – Kansas City led a pack of Lobos in the race, as New Mexico placed seven runners in the top 33.

Right behind Frerichs was the rest of UNM’s core four, as Rhona Auckland placed fourth (time of 16:28.9), Alice Wright fifth (16:29.5) and Calli Thackery sixth (16:40.6).

Capturing the final scoring spot for the Lobos was Molly Renfer, who took 12th in 16:52.7. Renfer finished in front of all but five teams’ top finisher.

Rounding out the Lobos’ contingent were Whitney Thornburg (26th, 17:07.7), Emily Hosker-Thornhill (33rd, 17:14.2), Sophie Connor (62nd, 17:33.5) and Lindsey Andrews (17:58.0).

New Mexico led wire-to-wire in the race, holding the top spot at the one-kilometer mark and four-kilometer mark.

Overall, the women finished with 29 points, 20 points fewer than their winning tally from last year. Wright and Thackery both improved three positions on their showings from 2014, as Wright moved from eighth to fifth and Thackery from ninth to sixth.

No other team was within 35 points of the Lobos, as No. 14 NC State took second with 74 points behind individual champ Ryen Frazier. No. 20 Notre Dame was third with 123 points.

On the men’s side, Elmar Engholm and Graham Thomas led the way, as Engholm took 18th in 24:09.1 and Thomas placed 22nd in 24:14.3. Without five of their seven top runners from last year’s NCAAs, the number of the men saw their first high-level NCAA action.

But the New Mexico men still took home another top-10 finish at Notre Dame, and did against a challenging field that featured six teams either ranked or receiving votes in the most recent national poll.

Halfway through the five-mile race, the Lobos were down in 14th place, and rallied over the second half of the course.

Dan Milechman (28th place, time of 24:20.5) was the third scorer for New Mexico, followed by Josh Kerr (71st, 24:51.5) and Matt Bergin (94th, 25:02.2).

Also running for UNM was Taylor Potter (135th, 25:36.8), Zac Castillo (140th, 25:41.8) and Jesus Mendoza (150th, 26:00.1).

UTEP won the race with 89 team points, with NC State second (97 points) and Mountain West foe Colorado State third (126). New Mexico finished with 230 points.

The Lobos return to action in two weeks, when they’ll travel to the Wisconsin Invitational in their final meet for the championship season.

Notre Dame Invitational: Team, individual results