University of New Mexico cross country winner Alice Wright (356) is back on the roster for the preseason No. 1 ranked team — and defending national champion. (AP Photo/The Tribune-Star, Jim Avelis)
The University of New Mexico women’s cross country team opened as the top-ranked team in the nation in the preseason U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association National Coaches’ Poll released Tuesday.
The defending NCAA team championships, the Lobo women earned nine of a possible 12 first-place votes to extend their streak as the nation’s top-ranked team to eight straight polls dating back to the first regular-season poll of the 2015 season.
New Mexico is the first team since 2010 to begin its title defense as the No. 1 team in the USTFCCCA preseason poll.
“This is a great early-season honor for not only the women on the team but also the university, the City of Albuquerque and state of New Mexico,” Lobo head coach Joe Franklin said. “We are 81 days from the NCAA Championships and a lot can happen between now and then. Last year went well and this year our goals are the same: get to the starting line healthy in November and see what happens.”
After one of the most dominant championship performances in NCAA history, the Lobos are eyeing a repeat this fall. New Mexico returns three All-Americans in Alice Wright, Rhona Auckland and Calli Thackery and add in a handful of talented newcomers to their squad.
The 2016 NCAA Championships are November 19 in Terre Haute, Ind.
Women’s country is still the only women’s athletic team in New Mexico history to be ranked No. 1 in the country in their sport’s respective poll. New Mexico men’s soccer is the only other program to achieve that status in the documented history of New Mexico Athletics.
UNM is also the only current member of the Mountain West to ever have either it’s men’s or women’s team ranked No. 1 in the USTFCCCA National Cross Country Poll. Former member BYU is the only other institution with MW ties to ever claim the top rank in cross country.
The Lobos claimed nine of the 12 first-place votes and 354 total points, ahead of No. 2 Colorado (one first-place vote, 344 points) and No. 3 Providence (two first-place votes, 327 points). Oregon (314 points) and NC State (298 points) round out the top five.
It’s the 32nd straight poll the New Mexico women’s team was ranked.
New Mexico also captured the top spot in the women’s version of the USTFCCCA Mountain Region preseason rankings that were released Monday.
The Lobos’ first competition of the season is Saturday, September 3 as they host the Lobo Invitational at the UNM North Golf Course.