The University of Arizona men's and women's cross country teams return to the Midwest for another meet Friday, October 6, when they compete in the Notre Dame Invitational in South Bend, Ind. The meet gets under way at 3:15 p.m. (EST) with the open and J.V. races, followed by the women's 5,000m at 4:15 p.m. and the men's 5-mile race at 4:45. The Northern Indiana weather could be a factor, as temperatures are expected to be in the upper 40s with rain possibly.
Arizona will face some of the top teams in the country at this meet. Several of the top cross country teams in the nation are expected to run in both the men's and women's races. The No. 10 Arizona men will face No. 2 Stanford, No. 8 North Carolina State, No. 22 Notre Dame and several other quality teams. Arizona's 14th-ranked women's squad will run against No. 1 Stanford, No. 6 North Carolina State, No. 11 Michigan, among others.
Arizona will be running without its biggest gun, junior Tara Chaplin. She will stay in Tucson to rest up for the Oct. 14 Pre-NCAA Invitational. The men's and women's teams will cut down to seven runners this week, with David Lopez, Mike Cramer, Steve Smith, Tom Prindiville, Rick Weis, Andrew Carlson and Kevin Engelhardt going for the men. Katrin Engelen, Erin Doherty, Kimberly Bates, Jennifer Burris, Nicole Gurnicz, Harisimran Khalsa and Beth Hoge will run for the women. Freshman Andrea Schwartz will compete in the J.V. race.
For the Women:
All five of the Arizona women's top finishers at the 1999 NCAA Championships will compete for the Wildcats this season. Led by junior Tara Chaplin, Arizona's No. 1 runner last year, the Wildcats are a deep and talented team from 1-9 in the running order. Chaplin is a three-time All-American in track and field and returns as one of the top cross country runners in the nation this year. Chaplin handily won the Purdue Invitational and Roy Griak Invitational already this season. She will take a break, this week however, to rest and prepare for the Pre-NCAA Invitational Oct. 14 in Ames, Iowa. Senior Katrin Engelen qualified for the 2000 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in the 10,000m and has carried her fine running streak in the cross country season. Juniors Erin Doherty and Jennifer Burris were both solid contributors in the team's top-4 last year and are in great shape again. Four newcomers and another returnee add more depth to the Wildcats' squad this season, too. Sophomore Kimberly Bates was a quality No. 5-6 runner last year and will help in that capacity again. Sophomore Nicole Gurnicz transferred during the off-season from Boise State and gives the Wildcats another solid runner with collegiate experience. Sophomore Harisimran Khalsa and freshmen Beth Hoge and Andrea Schwartz will also push for spots in the top seven that will travel to future meets.
And the Men:
Arizona finished 10th at last year's NCAA Championships, and four of the top five runners from that race return to the team this year. Senior David Lopez was the team's No. 2 runner last season and is poised to fill the role of the departed Micheil Jones, although juniors Steve Smith and Mike Cramer will have plenty to say (with their feet) in the race for the team's top spot. Juniors Tom Prindiville and Rick Weis has shown in fall practice he is capable of running with the front pack, and four freshmen will be amongst the challengers for the Wildcats. Andrew Carlson, Mike Howard, Kevin Engelhardt and Matt McInvale form one of the top freshmen classes in the nation this season with a wealth of distance running ability. Depth and plenty of it has been the primary strength of the Wildcat team thus far in 2000. Cramer won the Purdue Invitational, and David Lopez was the team's top finisher at the Roy Griak Invitational, showing several runners on the team are capable of running in the top-5.
The Wildcat men dropped from No. 5 to No. 10 in the latest edition of the MONDO Men's Division I Cross Country poll, as voted on by the U.S. Cross Country Coaches Association. Based on their very strong showing at the Roy Griak Invitational, the Arizona women moved up to No. 14 in the FinishLynx Women's Division I Cross Country poll. The Wildcat women started the season unranked and were the biggest movers in the latest poll.
Junior Tara Chaplin has established herself as one of the top up-and-coming runners in the collegiate arena over the past two years, contending in and winning several races in cross country and track and field. Last year, Chaplin picked up the third All-America honors of her career, finishing fifth in the 5,000m at the NCAA Indoor Championships. As a freshman, the Montpelier, Vt., native earned All-America honors in the indoor 5,000m and outdoor 10,000m. Chaplin won the first two races of the 1999 Cross Country season -- the Asics/UCI Invitational and Aztec Invitational. She also captured the title at the Wildcats' first two races of 2000, winning the Purdue Invitational and Roy Griak Invitational crowns. Chaplin will not run at the Notre Dame Invitational, however, as she will rest up for the Pre-NCAA Invitational Oct. 14.
The men's team is lacking in the well-defined individual star, but depth is not a problem for the team this season. The Wildcats' top five runners -- senior David Lopez, juniors Mike Cramer, Tom Prindiville and Steve Smith and freshman Andrew Carlson -- have shown they all have front-of-the-pack moxy. Cramer won the Purdue Invitational, while Lopez was the team's top finisher at the Roy Griak Invitational. Prindiville also ran the best race of his collegiate career, finishing 17th, the team's No. 2 runner, at the Griak.
Arizona Head Coach Dave Murray:
The dean of Arizona coaches, Dave Murray (Arizona 65, 68) begins his 34th season as a head coach at Arizona. He has been at the helms of the men's cross country program since 1968, and the women's program has been under his direction since 1976. Murray has also been the head track and field coach since 1982, and his one of the most respected coaches in the nation. Murray has 146 All-Americans to his credit, 106 in track and field, 40 in cross country.
"We are going to run against a lot of very good teams again this week at Notre Dame. Tara is going to stay in Tucson and rest up for the Pre-NCAA Invitational because she is really looking to run well there. Our men's team just keeps running extremely well as a team, and I have been very pleased with the performances we have gotten from most of them. Both of our teams are going to need to have some better efforts from our fifth runners, though, but I think that is going to come in the next few races. We are still counting on some younger, less experienced people, but they are going to get more maturity and confidence as the season progresses."