Nov. 17, 2012
Lawi Lalang and senior Stephen Sambu of the men's cross country team competed at the NCAA Championships on Saturday in Louisville, Ky. The UA women earned a sixth-place finish while Sambu earned a runner-up finish on the men's side and Lalang took third place at Tom Sawyer State Park.
Junior Elvin Kibet led the way for the women, finishing in 19th place in the 6,000-meter race with a time of 20:03.3, earning All-America honors. Senior Jen Bergman clocked a time of 20:07.9 and finished in 29th place, earning All-America accolades for the second-straight year. Sophomore Nicci Corbin finished in 77th place with a time of 20:37.5 Senior Elizabeth Apgar's time of 2-:49.9 was good for 103rd place. Junior Amanda Russell rounded out the scoring for Arizona, taking 129th place and posting a time of 20:59.7. Sophomores Stephanie Bulder (215th; 21:37.9) and Clea Formaz (245th; 22:12.0) also ran for the UA women on Saturday.
"Overall, I feel happy with how I did but I'm not satisfied," Kibet said. "I believe I could have done a little bit better but I still gave it my best and I'm happy with how it turned out. It's really exciting that we got sixth place. At first, they told us we were 11th and that was really scary but they finally told us we got sixth place and that was very exciting. We are happy with that, we worked really hard this year and we were stable. We never went back and forth like last year and we felt so confident. I think the consistency is a sign that we are doing really well as a team. We wanted to get fourth place but sixth is still really good and we are happy."
The UA women's tally of 263 points was good for sixth; the best overall finish since 2001 when the UA women took fourth place. The Wildcats' highest team finish ever is second in 1980. Last season, the squad earned a 19th-place finish.
"I'm really happy with our performance today," head coach James Li said. "We did well and had about the same level performance today that we had throughout the season. We can control what we can control and there were other teams that did really well. We did what we could do. The ladies finishing in sixth are our best finish in many years and I don't think anybody ran poorly. I'm so proud of their consistency and how much improvement we've made this year."
Oregon won the women's title with 114 points. Providence finished in second place with 183 points. Stanford totaled 198 points, good for third place. Florida State finished with 202 points, taking fourth place. Michigan claimed fifth place after tallying 247 points.
On the men's side, Sambu clocked a 10K time of 28:38.6 good for a runner-up finish. He finished 7.3 seconds behind Texas Techs' Kennedy Kithuka. Sambu also earned a runner-up finish at the 2010 NCAA Cross Country Championships. In his final race at Arizona, Sambu earned All-America honors. In every race that Sambu competed in at the NCAA Championships, he earned All-America accolades. In cross country, Sambu earned All-America honors twice and he earned three honors in both indoor and outdoor track, respectively.
"It was a good race but at the beginning we started way too fast and that messed up everything," Sambu said. "It was a tough race but a good race. At the end we were in a lot of pain, my legs were so tired. The first mile we ran in about 4:20 or something close to that and that was too fast. I was really trying to win, especially since it was my last race at Arizona, I really wanted that. But, I'm still happy with second place and how it went today."
Lalang finished in third place, in his 11th cross country race it marks the first time he has not finished in first place. He clocked a time of 28:51.8. Lalang also earned All-America honors for the second-straight year. Sambu and Lalang's 2-3 finish marks the first time since 2005 that two teammates have finished in the top 3 of a men's NCAA Cross Country Championship race. Wisconsin's Simon Bairu (first) and Chris Solinsky (third) were the last duo to accomplish that feat. Lalang was the 2012 Pac-12 Champion; he won the 2012 NCAA West Regional and was named the 2012 USTFCCCA Male West Region Athlete of the Year.
"It was a great race, the fastest ever in an NCAA Championship race," Li said. "It was probably Lawi and Stephen's best race on the year but today the other guy was better. We did what we were capable of doing and I am satisfied with that. I hoped we could have a done a little bit better but I am still happy."
In the men's team race, Oklahoma State won with 72 points. Wisconsin finished with 135 points, good for second place. Colorado's total of 158 points was good for third place. Northern Arizona tallied 191 points and finished in fourth place. Florida State came in fifth place with 238 points.
"I am very impressed with everyone's effort today, the athletes, coaches and support staff" Director of Cross Country and Track and Field Fred Harvey said. "It was one of the greatest NCAA Cross Country Championships in history and Arizona showed the country that we are here to stay."