D1 NCAA XC Championships

49 Points to History: How the New Mexico Lobos Won the NCAA Championship

49 Points to History: How the New Mexico Lobos Won the NCAA Championship

Nov 21, 2015 by Meg Bellino
49 Points to History: How the New Mexico Lobos Won the NCAA Championship


LOUISVILLE — Flashback to October. The No. 1 ranked New Mexico Lobos had just won the Wisconsin adidas Invitational in a record low 32 points. Murmurs of this squad “making history” at the NCAA Championships flew around the running world, and we wondered if they could be the most successful team since the NCAA fields expanded to 31 teams in 1998. (For the record, BYU’s winning team in 2001 scored 62 points, the lowest point total until today. Article HERE.

Led by senior Courtney Frerichs, the Lobos packed all five scorers in the top 25 at the 2015 NCAA Championships for a total of 49 points. Everyone saw their victory coming, but no one knew how low they could go.

Frerichs (4th) and sophomore Alice Wright (5th) led the charge to the top. Junior Rhona Auckland (13th), senior Calli Thackery (15th) and senior Molly Renfer (24th) followed close behind to assist in the Lobos' 80-point victory over No. 2 ranked Colorado. Even the Lobos couldn’t believe the score:

"We definitely found each other today,” Frerichs said. “Molly got out really hard which kept us going.”

Renfer did get out hard. She was around 41st place at the 2K mark, where splits show Frerichs, Auckland and Thackery out in around 80th place. Was coach Joe Franklin nervous?

“That’s just how we run. We tend to run from behind,” Franklin said. “This course last time [in 2012] we had a solid women’s team that was 17th at 4K and finished 10th. You wear the turquoise and you can find each other and it helps.”

Wright agreed. With about 300m to go in the race, she was pumping her arms up the final uphill on the straight-away, turning her head around several times to see where Auckland was behind her. “I think it’s easy with the turquoise to see each other,” she said.

“Personally that’s always what I do, just kind of work my way into the race,” Auckland said on their slow start. “We knew that people would be excited and going really hard.”

For Frerichs, winning for New Mexico was “a dream.” The 2015 NCAA runner-up in the steeplechase, Frerichs transferred this summer when her UMKC coach James Butler took the assistant job at New Mexico. She contemplated ending her NCAA career but decided on taking the leap. She was an All American during all three seasons in Kansas City, but never had the opportunity to win with a team.

“I took a chance with moving away on a last minute decision,” Frerichs said. “It’s been absolutely amazing. Everything has fallen into place and I couldn’t be happier. It was a much-needed change and it’s been so positive and I just have so many wonderful people in my life now.”

Frerichs said crossing the finish line and seeing her teammates was the best moment of her life, but little did she know her boyfriend Griffin Humphreys would propose to her after the New Mexico Lobos stepped off the awards podium. Video:

"I'm super excited for them," Franklin said. "These women have worked hard all year."

This was Franklin's first NCAA Championship at the University of New Mexico with a one-of-a-kind squad assembled. Wright and Thackery were the only returners from the 2014 third-place squad, while Frerichs, Auckland and Renfer joined this summer. Though the Lobos may have faced criticism for their surplus of international talent, there is no denying that this group formed the best top five the NCAA women's race has ever seen, and had the most fun along the way.

"From the number 17 woman to the number one woman they're a unit," Franklin said. "They all work together."