At the penultimate race of the US collegiate cross-country season Manx Sports Aid recipient Keith Gerrard led the University of New Mexico team to first place at the Mountain Region Championships on Saturday.
Following their victory at the Mountain West Conference two weeks previously, the New Mexico Lobos performance at the Rose Park Golf Course, Salt Lake City Utah gave them automatic qualification into the forthcoming NCAA final.
The Mountain Region Championship, which is regarded as one of the toughest regional meets held across the US, consists of institutions based at altitude and covers an area from Montana to New Mexico and as far east as Texas.
Gerrard and the seven-man UNM team quickly established themselves in the leading group of athletes which included Australian David McNeill (Northern Arizona) who took eighth place in the recent Commonwealth Games 5000m final.
The relatively flat course produced an early fast pace which was to Gerrard’s liking and as the race progressed he moved away from the rest of the Lobos pack in pursuit of McNeill, Diego Estrada (Northern Arizona) and MWC Champion Miles Batty (BYU Utah).
In the final 1000 metres of the 10k distance McNeill made a burst for home stretching out the leading four runners with Gerrard settling for an excellent fourth place in a time of 29.45.9.
Keith whose second season in the United States has gone from strength to strength said, "I’m pleased with the run, and it’s given me a big confidence boost ahead of the NCAA Championships.
"All of my hardest training is done now, so the important thing is for me to stay healthy and sharp."
The Albuquerque-based squad were delighted with their win, finishing ahead of fifteen other universities and placing four athletes in the top seven.
Their score of 45 points gave them a 21-point advantage over Colorado with BYU taking third place.
A week today (November 22) The University of New Mexico will compete at the final event of the American collegiate cross-country season in Terre Haute, Indiana, where they will compete for the NCAA Championship along with the top teams from the nine other regions.