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Battikha stars for Lobos at MWC indoor meet

February 23, 2019

Tanner Battikha picked an ideal time to reach a milestone.

The University of New Mexico junior was a star performer for the Lobos at the Mountain West Indoor Track and Field Championships on Friday at the Albuquerque Convention Center, taking first place in the long jump with a personal best of 24 feet, 6.25 inches (7.47 meters). Battikha placed third in the long jump at MWC Indoor Championships one year ago.

He attributed his success on Friday to keeping things simple.

“That was the best jump I’ve had since I was 18 years old, and it helps to get it at indoor because I’ve always struggled at indoor, so it feels good,” Battikha told themw.com. “I get too caught up in technicalities sometimes and just going back to basics is what I did today and it worked.”

Through six scored events, the Lobo men are in fifth place with 20 points, while the women are sixth with 17 points.

The bulk of the finals take place today at the Convention Center, with 11 events apiece for both the men and women.

The Lobos had some other standouts in qualifying heats on Friday.

In the women’s mile qualifier, New Mexico sophomore Weini Kelati took first place in her heat with a MWC-record time of 4:42.26, narrowly edging the previous mark of 4:42.33. Lobo senior Kieran Casey also qualified for today’s final with a time of 4:59.61. On the men’s side, Lobo junior Jonny Glen qualified for the mile final with a fifth-place finish (4:18.43).

Jay Griffin IV, a junior who plays wide receiver on the Lobo football team, had the top time among men’s 200 meter qualifiers at 21.44 seconds. Griffin set the school record in the event earlier this season at 21.14 seconds on Jan. 26.

Meanwhile, a quartet of Lobos ? Michael Wilson (1:53.28), Kristian Hansen (1:52.56), Max Wharton (1:53.37) and Gavin Sleeter (1:54.33) ? qualified for the finals of the men’s 800 meters.

Elsewhere:

? One notable in attendance on Friday was former UNM All-American Josh Kerr, who was on commentary duties for media outlet FloTrack, which streamed the event live. Kerr was a two-time national champion in the indoor mile and also won a title in the outdoor 1,500 meters. The Edinburgh, Scotland, native signed with an agent following his junior year with the Lobos.

? Emily Martin was in first place with three laps to go in the women’s 5,000 meters but was ultimately passed by Air Force’s Maria Mettler and Colorado State’s Bailey Ness to finish third with a time of 17:19.48. Meanwhile, teammate Sophie Eckel got tangled up with some other runners and tripped while making a turn early on in the race. Eckel was helped off the track but appeared to be uninjured.

? UNLV’s Destiny Smith-Barnett ran a 7.15 in the women’s 60 meters qualifying heat, a school, MWC and MWC championships record. Her time bests the previous mark set by Ashley Henderson (7.17) from San Diego State in 2017. Smith-Barnett’s previous best was 7.21 seconds, good for second best in the MWC this season and sixth overall in the NCAA coming into Friday’s meet.

? UNLV and Boise State both were stuck in Las Vegas, Nev., due to inclement weather, delaying their arrival into Albuquerque until early this morning. As a result, Friday’s meet was delayed three hours.

? San Diego State’s Bonnie Draxler surpassed her own Mountain West record with a high jump of 14 feet, 2.5 inches.